Citation: Specialist Profile Series. Velicko I. EpiNorth 2012; 13: 73-5.
Name: Inga Velicko
Background: Master degree in health care sciences (public health) from Riga Stradins University (former Latvian Medical Academy), and a two-year training in the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (EPIET). Currently studying for a PhD degree at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
Title: Epidemiologist, Public Health specialist
Organization: Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, Stockholm, Sweden
Specialization: Public health, epidemiology of infectious diseases with current focus on sexually transmitted infections
Hobby: Photography, learning new languages, travelling, yoga
What are your responsibilities at the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control?
I am in charge of surveillance of the notifiable sexually transmitted infections at the national level in Sweden. Genital chlamydia infection became my biggest professional interest which also resulted in research addressing the epidemiology of this infection, modeling of the spread of infection and possible ways to control infection. Previously I was also involved in supervising fellows enrolled in the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (EPIET) based in our department. This was very rewarding work since I could contribute to the development of the fellows and the programme from which I graduated in 2006. I am also responsible for implementation of a study in Sweden that is part of the comprehensive European project SIALON-2 (http://www.sialon.eu) looking at reliable information for HIV and STI prevalence, risky behaviour and prevention needs among men who have sex with men.
What motivated you to devote yourself to infectious disease epidemiology?
My interest was kindled during my university studies in public health. Among all possible directions I chose to focus on epidemiology and later on infectious disease epidemiology. This is a very exciting field that interacts with microbiology, immunology, biostatistics, social sciences etc.
Which of your professional achievements brings you the most satisfaction?
Currently it is the combination of surveillance tasks with scientific research possibilities. It is great to be able to test your hypotheses with scientific methods!
What was your most difficult professional moment?
To balance my professional life, scientific research and private life. But all difficulties and problems are resolved with time. If there is a problem, there are always opportunities.
What do you think are the most important achievements in infectious disease epidemiology so far?
The biggest success is the possibility to control vaccine-preventable diseases. Modeling that can help to suggest possible scenarios and solutions is also an important achievement, especially today when time and resources are often limited.
How did you start collaborating in the EpiNorth project?
My collaboration started with teaching at EpiTrain courses in the project. Then I became collaborative partner from Sweden. I was project manager in 2008. We started many new initiatives in the project trying to make EpiNorth more useful and attractive to the project members. Everyone involved in the project, including local contact persons in each participating country, represent the greatest value of the project.
What do you find the most interesting aspect of the EpiNorth project?
All the “modules” that have been developed are appreciated. Some of them, however, had a short lifetime. My greatest passion was and is the EpiNorth journal. We have invested a lot in improving the content and visual presentation. The journal provides an important platform for communicating results of work performed in our participating countries. These improvements received notice from network members in the latest survey. I also think that surveillance data on infectious diseases in our region is useful in our daily work. Face-to-face annual meetings with network members and discussions about current public health challenges brings us closer to each other and provides a platform during which we can suggest possible solutions to the problems experienced. Another huge success is the EpiTrain courses that have contributed to increased knowledge in different aspects of epidemiology among specialists in our region.
What do you consider the most important achievement of the Epi-North project?
Bringing colleagues from different countries together and creating a stable functioning network of colleagues during the past 15 years. Sharing our experiences has hopefully contributed to improved public health in our region.
What is your favourite book and why?
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Every time I read it I discover some new things. Among many others I am fascinated by poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky. His “A Cloud in Trousers” is my favourite poem; a man with big soul and injured heart.
Aside from your professional career, what is your greatest ambition in life?
I would like to continue working in my chosen field and improve my performance and increase my knowledge. My current doctoral studies will contribute to this ambition. I would like to continue to discover new cultures through the travelling.
What would be your wishes for the younger colleagues in the field of epidemiology?
Continuous learning is crucial. We have to keep up-to-date on the latest achievements in our field and related fields. Become involved in international collaborations, networks and research projects and thus contribute to expanding contact networks and professional growth.