public health certificate program instructor Jake Pry headshot

Instructor Spotlight: Jake Pry

Jake Pry has been an epidemiologist for 12 years. His passion for global public health began on his first trip to Rwanda. There, he witnessed the potential impact public health practices could have on improving health at the population level—something he says is in many ways unique to public health.

Today, Pry is an assistant adjunct professor of epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis, a senior epidemiologist in the Division of Infectious Disease Surveillance at the California Department of Public Health and a senior epidemiologist in the Implementation Science Unit at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia. He is also the instructor for Epidemiology for Health Professionals in the Public Health Certificate Program at UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education.

Why do you teach?

I teach with the hope that I can inspire students to continue pushing public health forward. So much excellent progress has occurred through the public health emergency and hardship associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a renewed focus on public health, and it is critical that we operationalize, expand and normalize some of the novel resources and tools built during the pandemic.

What do you want students to take away from your course?

In addition to the course objectives, I make efforts to ensure that the students are connecting the dots between the methods and approaches—understanding not only the techniques, but also recognizing how those principles relate (or do not relate) to one another.

How will learning epidemiology positively impact a student’s life or career?

Epidemiology is fundamental to public health progression. For me, epidemiology has helped me understand not only how to ask the questions important to public health, but it has also equipped me to answer those questions.

Why is an education or training in public health important?

Public health is an extremely diverse field that requires both experts and generalists to operate efficiently. Gaining a better understanding of the breadth of public health is valuable to outline the area in which you are most enthusiastic or interested.

What skills are necessary for a career in public health and what jobs are available?

I see public health as a highly empathic career—at least some level of altruistic tendencies would be helpful, though not necessary. Increasingly there are opportunities for those with public health training not only in local, state and federal public health agencies, but also in the private sector, from pharmaceuticals to public health policy change advocates.

What’s trending in public health that students should be aware of?

Despite an overwhelming (in some areas) amount of research, there remains a stark gap between the literature/evidence and the public. We have made some progress using social media to share more approachable take-away messages distilled from the literature; however, we have also observed social media perpetuating destructive mis/disinformation as well. Proficient public health translational scientists/specialists able to act as information liaisons from the literature to the public are desperately needed.

Why is diversity in public health important?

I have learned, most pointedly through my global health research experience, that there are many perspectives to almost every issue and that the more completely we can appreciate those perspectives the more potential we have for successful public health intervention, implementation and uptake.

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