Alumni Spotlight: Meet Erika Rossetto, President of ProEpi, 2008 graduate of EpiSUS (Brazil FETP)
by Tina Rezvani, Communications Specialist, TEPHINET
Hi Erika, thank you for agreeing to be featured in TEPHIConnect's new series about the achievements of FETP alumni. First, can you tell us, from your perspective, what was the most important thing you learned from your FETP experience?
Hi Tina! It is my pleasure to participate in this TEPHIConnect series.
I consider the highlights of my FETP experience to be the epidemiological method of work, systematic approach, rapid response, working with real field conditions, and, especially, working as a team.
What did you find challenging in learning to work within an epidemiological team, particularly in the field?
I think there are many variables and conditions which present challenges such as working with people from different backgrounds and cultures, addressing language barriers, building mutual trust, recognizing one's own limits, respecting differences, taking responsibility as an individual and as a group, and recognizing that you are part of a team and that your individual contributions are part of a much larger work.
What is ProEpi? As President, what is your role?
ProEpi is a young Brazilian NGO consisting of field epidemiology professionals (not exclusive to FETP) which envisions a network of professionals and empowerment through training, information, and knowledge exchange. We also hold discussions on national and international outbreaks, surveillance systems and global health. Today, we reach nearly 8,000 followers on our Facebook page and have trained more than 3,000 professionals in Epi Info, outbreak investigation, and risk communication, among other topics. In this way, we see the importance of sharing information. One characteristic that distinguishes ProEpi is our quick response. Within 48 hours, together with our national and international NGO and governmental partners, including TEPHINET, we identify and deploy a professional to a mission (outbreak investigation, training).
And oh yes, I’m the President! My role is to develop, strengthen and advocate for the network, to worry about having the money to pay our bills at the end of each month, and to work hard with our team of volunteers who believe in making a difference.
How did you become involved in ProEpi? Were you part of its founding?
The dream of having a Brazilian association of field epidemiologists was already in discussion during my training. I was not present at the 2014 founding meeting of ProEpi. I started getting involved in 2015, first as Secretary, then as the person responsible for communication (until now!), and in 2016 I was elected President.
What makes you most proud in your career?
Each mission as an epidemiologist is unique. All fieldwork in Brazil was special because I had the opportunity to contribute to the health of my country. My international experiences in Paraguay and Mozambique were striking. But the experience that made me proudest was the mission in the yellow fever outbreak response in Angola in 2016. I was on the GOARN (Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network) team, and when I received my ID card as an "Epidemiologist" ...oh my god. I remembered my selection for FETP in 2006 and everything I had dedicated and lived for years to receive this card from the WHO. In addition, it was amazing to work in a wonderful country, in a multicultural team and with different agencies!
As a TEPHIConnect user, how do you hope this platform can help you with your professional goals?
I'm very excited about TEPHIConnect. I hope to be able to connect with other colleagues around the world, receive job opportunities, be available for mentoring, receive guidance and keep myself updated with available technical content.
I think it's FETP bias. I already have TEPHIConnect on my smartphone, 24/7 connected.
What advice would you give to an FETP trainee or graduate embarking on his or her career?
First, you must love being FETP. Second, you must love the life of FETP (no routine, available 24/7, ready for travel and for quick response, living under pressure, being curious and always willing to learn more). Third, you must love your new FETP family, even if it is large, variable, and different.
FETP is a lifestyle; be open to experiences.
Photos from the last day of Erika's yellow fever mission in Angola (2016)
TEPHIConnect members: To learn more about Erika, reach out and connect with her by visiting her profile. If you're interested in participating in our Alumni Spotlight series, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.