When Ricardo Albarran graduated with his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012, he was unsure of what he wanted to do with his career.
Motivated by his passion for public health and prior work with underserved populations, Albarran set his sights on working at Howard Brown Health in Chicago, a community-based organization that provides health care services to the LGBTQ community. It was there that he began his professional career in public health.
In 2016, inspired by his work collaboration with a public health advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Albarran decided to pursue his Master of Public Health degree at the Yale School of Public Health in the hopes of one day working at CDC. It was during his time at Yale that Albarran first worked on program evaluation.
Program evaluation examines the performance, outcomes and impacts of a given program, measuring its success and identifying potential areas for improvement. While working on program evaluation projects at Yale with the New Haven Health Department and Connecticut Department of Public Health, Albarran immediately recognized the advantages evaluation proficiency could offer his career.
After completing his master’s degree in 2018, Albarran searched for fellowship opportunities through which he could continue working in evaluation. The CDC Evaluation Fellowship was the perfect match, offering him the chance to continue developing his evaluative skills while also achieving his goal of working at CDC.
The CDC Evaluation Fellowship is one of many Research Participant Programs hosted by CDC. The program offers participants the chance to gain firsthand experience in program evaluation across the agency. The CDC Research Participation Programs are educational and training programs designed to provide students, recent graduates and university faculty opportunities to participate in project-specific CDC research, current public health research and developmental activities.
During his fellowship, Albarran was stationed at the CDC facility in Atlanta, Georgia with the Program Development and Quality Improvement Branch of the Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP). There he provided evaluation support and technical assistance to several U.S. health departments that receive funding from the DSTDP’s flagship STD funding program, STD Prevention and Control for Health Departments (STD PCHD). Under the mentorship of Marion Carter, Ph.D., Albarran collaborated with other members of his evaluation team to help support the development of performance measures assessing STD program impacts.
Albarran contributed to several specific projects, including the evaluation of communications activities for the annual STD Surveillance Report and STD Awareness Month, evaluation of CDC’s responses to STD outbreaks and evaluation of a new peer-to-peer online engagement platform designed to share information and knowledge between STD PCHD recipients. Through his efforts, Albarran hoped to not only improve public STD programs, but also improve evaluation capacity at the state and national-levels.
According to Albarran, his professional development was his favorite part of the Evaluation Fellowship.
“My mentors were very supportive of my desire to pursue professional development opportunities, such as completing trainings or attending conferences,” Albarran said. “I’ve grown so much professionally as a result of that supportive environment.”
Albarran’s experience taught him valuable skills in data analysis, data visualization and communications. His contributions had national-level impact by helping improve evaluation practices at CDC and within health departments across the United States.
Albarran spoke positively about the CDC Evaluation Fellowship and encouraged others to participate in the program.
“The ORISE program provided me the opportunity to have an impact through public health work. I learned from experts in different fields, and I networked and found mentors across CDC,” he said. “Overall, it was a great experience.”
Albarran plans to return to Chicago following the fellowship and continue working within the public health field. Although he is uncertain of his next career move, he is happy to have accomplished his goal of contributing to CDC research and is excited to set new career goals.
The program is managed by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) under an agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORISE focuses on scientific initiatives including educating the next generation of scientists and is managed for DOE by ORAU.