The University of New Mexico School of Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program was recently selected as one of 11 centers nationwide that will pilot a new federally sponsored fellowship program.

The joint Infectious Diseases/Epidemic Intelligence Service (ID/EIS) Fellowship – which is funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in partnership with the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) – will provide a structured career opportunity for infectious disease physicians to expand their training in public health by combining the UNM School of Medicine ID fellowship program with the two-year CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service.

Mariam Salas, MD, program director for the Infectious Diseases Fellowship, said this new program streamlines a career path for applicants interested in both ID and applied epidemiology training.

“As a program director and educator, I am just so excited about being able to build their fellowship experiences around this goal,” Salas said. “I think it increases the likelihood that we’ll be able to attract and retain top talent to the state.”

The UNM School of Medicine’s ID fellowship program was one of only 11 in the country selected by the CDC and IDSA to participate. Anna Guggenheim, MPH, associate director of Fellowship Programs for the IDSA, said there were more than 45 applications.

“It was definitely a very competitive process,” Guggenheim said. “But we really thought UNM’s application stood out.”

According to Eric Pevzner, PhD, MPH, chief of the CDC’s Epidemiology Workforce, one of the main reasons UNM was chosen to participate was the university’s history of working to enhance the health of New Mexico’s Native American communities.

“This was a given for us,” he said. “When we saw that they’ve got this existing relationship of reaching Native and Indigenous populations and having a history of successfully having these partnerships in place, that put them right towards the top of our list. We see that as a great opportunity for fellows receiving their ID training.”

Salas said the School of Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program has operated for more than 30 years. Its purpose is to promote health equity for all New Mexicans through patient advocacy, clinical excellence and compassion.

“When this pilot came through, it was completely in line with the mission of our program,” Salas said. “We were so excited about the prospect of creating a track that was so focused on integrating public health.”

The ID/EIS fellowship program begins with a two-year ID fellowship, then continues with the two-year EIS program. Joint fellows will directly address public health threats, working either in field locations at state and local public health departments or at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

One of the benefits of the program, Pevzner said, is that the dual program will inform participants about their career plans for the next four years.

“These are highly trained people and many of them have been moving from institution to institution for all of their training – a lot of them are dying to settle down,” he said. “This lets them know what their next four years are going to be like.”

While the application period for ID fellows to participate in the first year of the pilot has already closed, IDSA and the CDC expect to expand the number of participating programs in the future.