Catching up with our newest team member
Dr. Missy Simpson recently joined Morris Animal Foundation as our new epidemiologist, specifically working with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. Dr. Simpson took some time to sit down and answer a few questions about herself and her new job.
What does an epidemiologist do, and how is that different from a biostatistician?
Epidemiologists study patterns of disease in populations. We analyze data to see if we can identify any risks associated with certain exposures.
Epidemiology actually got its start in London in the 19th century. There was a terrible and deadly cholera outbreak there in 1854. A physician named John Snow investigated the outbreak, and was able to trace the source to a single water pump. Snow’s methodology became the foundation for what is now known as epidemiology.
There is a lot of overlap between a biostatistician and an epidemiologist. Epidemiologists have strong backgrounds in statistics, just like biostatisticians. But epidemiologists are involved with all aspects of a study, from formulating the research question to publishing results. Biostatisticians analyze data, but they aren’t as involved in study processes as epidemiologists.
What are you going to do first with the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study?
Now that we have full enrollment, my first task is to work on an in-depth descriptive paper about the baseline characteristics of the golden retrievers in the study. Some baseline data already have been reported, such as how many male dogs are enrolled and how many dogs live in California. I’ll be diving into new data: looking into diet, behavior and diseases of young dogs.
What is the most common question you get asked about being an epidemiologist?
When I tell people that I am an epidemiologist, they usually have one of two responses: they ask me what it is or they ask me about their dog’s skin condition, thinking I am a dermatologist!
Next month we’ll continue our interview with Dr. Simpson.