Member Insight – Nadia Abuelezam

What sparked your decision to become an epidemiologist?

I was a junior at Harvey Mudd College and Dr. Sally Blower came and gave a school-wide lecture about her work mathematically modeling HIV in South Africa. It was the first moment I understood that I could use my mathematics degree to contribute to improving people’s health. I emailed her and she suggested I look into programs in epidemiology for graduate school.

What do you see as the biggest obstacle facing epidemiologists in the next five years?

I think that epidemiologists will have to deal with structural determinants of health in meaningful and intentional ways. While, I think, the discipline has been documenting the impact of various social determinants of health there is more work to be done in developing tools, methods, and interventions that directly address structural health determinants. I also think this will be made easier if we have a more diverse group of epidemiologists thinking and working through these issues.

Do you have any pets?

I don’t have any pets, but I do have many houseplants that I care about deeply! I’ve even named some of them!

Why did you join SER? What keeps you coming back?

I joined SER at the suggestion of my doctoral advisor, Dr. George Seage. I attended a meeting during graduate school and really enjoyed the environment and the opportunity to stay connected to epidemiological methods. Last year’s conference in Minneapolis, one of my favorite conferences thus far, really solidified my desire to keep coming back to SER.

What advice do you give students who want to become epidemiologists?

It is important that, as epidemiologists, we understand our role in the communities we serve and study. If you plan to understand the health of a particular community (or a disease that impacts a particular community) it’s important to get to know its members in real and tangible ways. That may mean you have to talk to people (gasp – qualitative studies!). The numbers in our papers represent real people. It’s easy to get caught up in the code or the calculations, but never forget about the people we hope to help with the work that we do.

Outside of epidemiology what do you enjoy doing?

I’m an avid runner. I’ve run 2 marathons and 7 half marathons. I also maintain a garden during the summer, enjoy watching TV with my husband, try to keep up with #epitwitter, and do a bit of fiction reading every evening.

What is something that not many people know about you?

I’m an avid Crossfit-er and am rather religious about my gym time. I attend a Crossfit class 6 mornings a week (6:30AM, Monday-Saturday). It’s the one part of my day where I don’t have to plan anything out or overthink anything. It’s also fantastic stress relief!


Nadia N. Abuelezam, ScD
Assistant Professor, Connell School of Nursing, Boston College
Connect with me on Twitter!