In recognition of its high quality training the MAE Program, Australia’s Field Epidemiology Program (FETP), has received Accreditation by the international professional network for FETPs. This is an important milestone for the Program which has been has been run out of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH) since 1991 and has produced over 200 graduates during this time.
The Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network, usually referred to as TEPHINET, accredits FETPs only after a rigorous process to ensure that the program is adhering to set standards in teaching, training and integration with relevant public health structures within the country. Since the launch of the first accreditation cycle in 2016, fewer than 20 FETPs of the 71 in existence around the globe have been accredited.
The MAE Program has a long involvement with TEPHINET. Dr Mahomed Patel a long-term member of the MAE Program team was a founding member of TEPHINET in 1997, and currently Professor Martyn Kirk, past Convenor of the MAE Program sits on the TEPHINET Board. Over the last 20 years TEPHINET has grown to represent 71 training programs with over 12,000 graduates and approximately 2,500 current trainees.
The MAE Program applied for accreditation with TEPHINET in 2018. This began with an expression of interest in March; followed by a full application providing documentation and evidence against a standard set of competencies in May; and culminated in a week long site visit in October from two eminent epidemiologists who are trained as accreditation reviewers by TEPHINET.
Within the MAE team the accreditation process was driven by Dr Ben Polkinghorne. He commented that “the reviewers showed keen interest in the MAE Program and were eager to help us not only to improve our Program but also to take learnings from our Program to help other FETPs. Accreditation is international recognition of our value in supporting Australia’s public health priorities and building workforce capacity. Although it was a huge amount of work, the process has helped us to strengthen our program, which will be of benefit to our graduates and ultimately to public health in Australia.”
During their accreditation visit to Australia the reviewers spent time in Brisbane and Canberra where they spoke with Program staff, former and current scholars and supervisors and the heads of NCEPH and RSPH. They also interviewed the Chair of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia as well as representatives from the Commonwealth Department of Health, in addition to reviewing documentation on all aspects of program operation, teaching and student field work and other projects. At the end of the week they gave an unconditional recommendation that the MAE Program should receive accreditation, and this recommendation was formally endorsed by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body Meeting at a meeting in Maputo, Mozambique.