Carl Reddy – Disease Surveillance

Director, Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network

As a young medical student at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine in Durban, South Africa, Carl Reddy’s plan was to become an anesthesiologist. However, he soon realized that his ambitions were far loftier. “In anesthesiology you see individual patients, but I always wanted to have a bigger impact. I also wanted to travel. I realized public health was more of my calling,” he says.

In 1998, Reddy won a scholarship from the Mexican government, which enabled him to do a year of public health-related research and complete his epidemiology training in that country. Armed with his master’s degree, he returned to South Africa and joined its Medical Research Council, investigating ways to shorten treatment regimens for tuberculosis.

That experience gave him the foundation he needed to join the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) tropical diseases research and training program in Geneva. From there, he joined UNAIDS and later directed efforts for its Technical Support Facility in Johannesburg. Providing support to help strengthen the global response to the AIDS epidemic was a worthy endeavor, but he still felt like something was missing.

“An MSc degree in epidemiology prepares you for research and teaching. With my job in the Technical Support Facility, there was no teaching. I missed the teaching component,” he says.

Epidemiology Training in the Field

When a director position with the South African Field Epidemiology Training Programme (SAFETP) opened up in 2013, Reddy saw his opportunity. “It was a good match, because I had the skills the job required, and it involved teaching and supervising students in the master of public health (MPH) program in field epidemiology.” He was responsible for helping to strengthen disease surveillance systems and teach students how to effectively respond to outbreaks.

During his time with SAFETP, he sat on various subcommittees and was on the board of the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) based in Kampala, Uganda. He also attended program director meetings for the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), and in 2016, the organization elected him as Chairman of the Advisory Board. Three years later, The Task Force for Global Health brought him aboard as TEPHINET’s director.

Fostering a Global Field Epidemiology Network

TEPHINET is a global network of field epidemiology training programs (FETPs) working in more than 100 countries. With funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other supporters, TEPHINET partners with ministries of health, universities, national public health institutes, and other public health agencies around the world to strengthen critical training programs. TEPHINET has developed and successfully implemented an accreditation process designed to systematically improve FETP quality worldwide. Since 2000, TEPHINET has institutionalized high-quality scientific exchange and shared learning among FETP fellows and mentors through annual global and regional conferences that foster scientific excellence in field epidemiology. TEPHINET is also an implementing partner on several dozen public health projects, including efforts to eradicate polio in Pakistan.

“TEPHINET exists to support and strengthen FETP programs in various countries,” he says. “As director, the most important thing I do is to maintain the network’s relationships.”

Another key TEPHINET project is TEPHIConnect, which links field epidemiologists with continuing education and mentoring opportunities after they’ve completed their training, and facilitates their rapid mobilization in the event of a major disease outbreak. “We’re developing a new learning strategy to ensure that graduates have the resources to continue learning,” he says.


Overseeing a network as widespread as TEPHINET comes with a number of challenges. Along with securing funding, there is the issue of countries being able to completely sustain their FETP once it has been established. “The ideal model of FETPs is that they become sustainable and owned by the ministries of health or public health institutes in their respective countries,” Reddy explains. “But many programs haven’t attained sustainability – they’re still supported by the CDC.”

Quality is another critical area. TEPHINET must ensure that all residents receive top-notch training. To maintain consistently high standards across its programs and make sure residents complete all required learning areas, TEPHINET offers accreditation for its FETPs offering a training duration of two years. The organization is also planning a curriculum review to reflect changing global health concerns, such as natural disasters due to climate change, or surges in migration.

A Roadmap for the Future

To address ongoing challenges like funding, sustainability, and quality assurance, over the last two years The Task Force for Global Health convened two meetings of key leaders from TEPHINET and its partners working in building applied epidemiology capacity around the globe. Together, they developed a long-term vision to guide the global FETP initiative forward.

“We considered the entire FETP enterprise. This includes all the programs around the world, regional networks, global networks, stakeholders, funders, and ministries of health. We developed the Global Field Epidemiology Roadmap – key areas we need to be focusing on,” Reddy says. Action items include improving the quality of FETPs, ensuring a cadre of trained field epidemiologists to contain outbreaks, and assuring sustainable funding into the future. “Now we are looking at implementing that roadmap.”

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