The Epi Ren Rises, Again

As you are reading this, I am in the middle of defending my doctoral dissertation. (I’m scheduling this post ahead of time. So, no, I’m not blogging while I’m taking the exam, silly.) The defense of the dissertation is the conclusion of five years of work on something that began as a crazy idea, became a dream, and then materialized into a reality. Many people have told me and congratulated me on the hard work that went into it, but I think that there are a few other people who deserve more credit.

I mean, sure, I did the work. The dissertation is entirely my creation. But I had plenty of help along the way in making sense of those things about epidemiology, disease transmission, violence, and crime that are hard to understand. I’m not an expert in any of these fields… Except, maybe, epidemiology. So I needed to consult with people on how to go about doing my research and writing my results.

Not only that, but there are all the people who took time out of their lives to push me and encourage me. There were the people who were bright lamps on the darkest of days. And then there is my wondrous wife and my most super of babies. Those two have made life so much sweeter, so much tolerable. Things make sense because of them. Chaos has order.

When I was in 9th grade, the principal of the school came to visit one of my classes. (I think it was Geometry class.) He gave us some spiel about hard work and the academic year ahead. He then asked us how much money we wanted to make in the future. I raised my hand and said that I wanted to make half a million dollars a year. He chuckled and said that it was impossible, and that — because of the demographic group I belonged to — I would be lucky to graduate high school. On the day of my high school graduation, I nodded at him, knowing that he probably didn’t remember the idiotic thing he said.

(Idiotic in that saying that is not a way to reverse the trend. It was true, however, that too many Hispanic kids at the time were not completing high school. Several of my cousins didn’t, and they’re paying the price for it to this day, twenty years later.)

See, I’ve always had detractors. My ideas for doing things in a different or new way have always had someone to shoot them down. Some of those folks I called “the dinosaurs” because they were much older and stuck in their own era. Using social media to track the flu was crazy. Investigating violence like we investigate infectious disease outbreaks was nuts. And some of the ideas that I have in my head now on how to do Public Health are probably impossible.

Impossible is my speciality.

Sith Lords are not, however.

One of the things that I’ve been wondering lately is who had the biggest influence on pushing me toward working on this degree and finishing it today. Was it the people who encouraged me? Or was it the people who opposed me? Was it that dude from a university out in California who emailed me that my criticism of his ideas about the influenza pandemic was invalid because I didn’t have a doctoral degree?

Whoever it was, I’m going to focus on only thanking and being thankful for the people who encouraged and supported me. The others’ time is up when it comes to living in my head rent-free. It’s time for me to clear that mechanism and look forward to the impossible things I want to achieve as a Doctor of Public Health.

So, like I’ve done so many times, I thank you for your encouragement… And thanks for coming along for the ride.


1 Comments on “The Epi Ren Rises, Again”

  1. As I told you at the venue, your presentation was awesome, and served as a window to the body of work you have engendered. I am eagerly looking forward to reading the thesis and the papers that would result therefrom. I don’t know if I ever told you, you are my role model for creating and maintaining a good balance between work and life. All the best to you in your future endeavors, Dr. Najera.

    Meanwhile, if anyone is interested, here is the Twitter link to the live-tweet I did of your presentation. My effort’s not very good or comprehensive, because I was too fascinated by the data you presented, but it is a glimpse.


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