abstract map background pattern

And We're Not Skin Doctors, Either!

by Brian W. Simpson

"My first reaction was, 'We're in a cartoon in The New Yorker. We finally made it!'" says Jonathan Samet of the cartoon that celebrates a profession whose work has long befuddled the American public. 

That epidemiology debuted Nov. 26 in a New Yorker cartoon reveals how much the fall's anthrax attacks have affected pop consciousness. 

Acute outbreaks capture the public's attention in a way that long-term research doesn't, notes Samet, MD, MS, chair of Epidemiology and the Jacob and Irene Fabrikant Professor in Health, Risk, and Society. "It takes us a while to say lung cancer rates are going up. I say 'a while'; it takes decades," says Samet.

As the pop spotlight shifts elsewhere, epidemiologists will no doubt once again become accustomed to their discipline being ignored or misunderstood by the public. "We are usually confused with dermatology," Samet laments.