Aruna Phabmixay - Spotlight on AEA members involved in Field Epidemiology

 Aruna Phabmixay

MAE Scholar, Office of Health Protection & Response, Commonwealth Dept Health


Tell AEA a little bit about yourself and what made you choose to be an epidemiologist, with a particular focus on your field epidemiology work

I have worked at the Commonwealth Department of Health for almost ten years, and epidemiology was always an important tool in my work as a policy officer. I became more interested in the field the closer I got to it, starting from blood-borne viruses and ending in pandemic influenza before I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the Master of Applied Epidemiology program in 2021. My day-to-day field epidemiology work has allowed me to experience another side of the pandemic response that has challenged my brain and nerves and facilitated my growth as an epidemiologist and as a person. 

Are there any unique challenges you have faced as a field epidemiologist?

I did not imagine I would be obtaining the vast majority of my 'field' epidemiology training from the comfort of my own home! I am grateful for the opportunity to train as a field epidemiologist at such an important time in history and even more grateful that we have the capability to do so. But I am looking forward to more days in the field!

What is one of the most rewarding experiences you have had as a field epidemiologist?

My entire experience at ACT Health assisting with the COVID-19 pandemic response was magical. Working with so many experienced, passionate and talented people and experiencing the essence of field epidemiology in case investigations, contact tracing and outbreak investigations for the first time was magical and so rewarding.

What has the COVID-19 pandemic taught us? 

One of the key lessons that COVID-19 has taught us is the need for us all in pandemic response sectors to continually re-evaluate our practice and not be afraid of innovation. COVID-19 is unlike any disease that humanity has faced. Using existing frameworks for the pandemic response to this disease as it continues to circulate may not be effective in the long run. (Easier said than done, though!) 

If you could invite any Epidemiologists [alive/historical] to coffee, who would you invite & why? 

Prof Aileen Plant is my hero. I would want to hear from her directly about all of the amazing things she experienced in her short life, especially on her work during the 2003 SARS outbreak in Vietnam. If I become even a fraction of the field epidemiologist she was, I will be happy!

What is your favourite book, and tell us why?

My favourite book is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I could not stop thinking about this book weeks after reading it. It was just so beautiful and original. Please read it if you come across it!


Creating connections, sharing knowledge and supporting the Australasian epidemiological community

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