Joaquín Baruch

On a Tuesday in October 2021, Dr. Joaquín Baruch, 29, started his day with a web conference call debriefing the World Health Organization (WHO) about his recent mission to northwest Africa; then he spoke with the Maltese head of laboratories at a hospital about ways to improve the process for reporting COVID-19 testing; and later he met with the team that manages Malta’s COVID-19 vaccination database about vaccine effectiveness monitoring and evaluation.

During the pandemic, this was a pretty typical day.

Originally from Spain, Joaquín’s work took him to Malta in September 2021, where he serves as a fellow with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s Field Epidemiology Training Program (EPIET) and works to improve Malta’s COVID-19 and severe respiratory illnesses surveillance and conduct vaccine effectiveness studies to inform public health authorities. In this role, Joaquín supports five public health areas: disease surveillance, outbreak response, applied research, teaching and training, and communication.


“This is why I switched from being a veterinarian to being an epidemiologist,” said Joaquín, who spent seven years working on veterinary epidemiology before switching to human epidemiology in 2019. “You have so much more reach with the impact your work makes.”

In addition to working in Malta, Joaquín spent 8 weeks in 2021 deployed through the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network with the WHO country office in Algeria at the Algerian-Mauritanian border helping with COVID-19 surveillance and response in the Sahrawi camps that host around 150,000 people from the disputed territory of Western Sahara in northwest Africa. He guided the development of a COVID-19 surveillance system, trained contact tracers, established an information system to capture and house data, and trained local health workers  to conduct these activities for COVID-19 and other diseases.

“There are times when it can be hard to find motivation, especially when you’re building an entire complex surveillance system, but when you work with the people whose jobs will be made easier because of this surveillance system, it’s inspiring to see the support you’re providing to a health system which is overworked,” he said.

Joaquín described the work as grueling and intense. As in many places around the world, he and his team were trying to rapidly build a system and workforce capacity that in regular times would take much longer, all while under the pressures of the pandemic.

This is the core of what EPIET fellows and other members of The Task Force’s Training Programs in Field Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET) are doing around the world: building epidemiologic capacity and strengthening health systems in more than 100 countries so that all countries are better equipped to detect and respond to global health threats.

As the global network of field epidemiology training programs, TEPHINET brings together and supports the training of more than 19,000 disease detectives like Joaquín to support outbreak, epidemic and pandemic response.

Watch to see a day in the life of a field epidemiologist through Joaquín’s eyes.

Photo 1 courtesy of Entada Hamdi Hasan and photo 2 and 3 courtesy of Joaquín Baruch.

Photo 1 courtesy of Entada Hamdi Hasan and photo 2 and 3 courtesy of Joaquín Baruch.

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