Alumni Profile: Sara Miller Archie, MPH '10

What degree did you receive from GWSPH? What was your concentration?

I received an MPH in Epidemiology.

Please tell us about your current position. Can you describe a typical day?

I am an epidemiologist working on a long-term cohort study of persons who were exposed to the World Trade Center disaster. On a typical day, I am involved with a number of different projects, ranging from a clinical respiratory study to an in-depth study of workers at the Fresh Kills landfill to an analysis of the association between PTSD and various chronic conditions. I do a lot of statistical analysis and data management, primarily using SAS software. I am also involved in study and questionnaire design, literature reviews, and manuscript writing. I often have the opportunity to work with our enrollees in person or over the phone, which I find to be a very rewarding experience.

Working at a health department also involves atypical days, where in the event of an emergency, we are asked to help out, whether that means monitoring special medical needs patients at a Hurricane Sandy shelter, working at a vaccination clinic during the H1N1 epidemic, or simply doing data entry for a survey on school absenteeism.

Please tell us about your path from GWSPH to where you are today. How did you get your first job in the field?

Both as someone who grew up in New York and through my public health education, I knew that the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had an excellent reputation as a progressive leader in public health. I was fortunate enough to find a position there soon after I left GWSPH, and have been there ever since.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

A co-worker once told me that every career has a ladder to climb, and it can take many people at least 10 years to settle into your career choice, so don’t be discouraged by the prospect of a long education, both formal and on-the-job.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

First of all, go for it! I find that epidemiology is an exciting field that allows you to work on a variety of different topics at many different levels. Additionally, the more statistical software packages that you’re familiar with, the better. I think that knowing SAS and, increasingly, R is highly valuable to a career in epidemiology. It’s also important to stay current with the literature and with new statistical methods. Take any training opportunities that are available to you; basically, always keep learning.

What was the impetus for getting your GWSPH degree?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be an epidemiologist; I found the idea of a field that connected biology, sociology, and statistics with the ability to help make a difference to be an exciting concept. After taking courses in epidemiology, statistics, and other public health-related fields in college, as well as an internship with an environmental risk communication group, I knew that I wanted to get my MPH. I worked for a year after getting my bachelor’s degree as an environmental community organizer. While I found the work fulfilling, it confirmed in me that I wanted to do research.

Interview conducted December 2013