An epidemiologist studies the outbreak, frequency, distribution, and control of communicable diseases. The unofficial headquarters of this activity is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Epidemiologists deal not only with the communication of disease in general but also with the specific conditions under which certain diseases seem to flourish. For example, the relatively new field of urban epidemiology specifically addresses those diseases and conditions peculiar to city settings. In addition, epidemiologists work to devise ways of preventing disease, such as developing vaccines. They are also concerned with causes of illness other than infectious diseases.

Epidemiologists have led the medical field in seeking environmental causes for a host of disorders once attributed to bacteria or other sources. Air and water pollution, toxic substances in foods, toxic substances used in the manufacture of various products -- all have come under the scrutiny of the epidemiologist.

Epidemiology attracts physicians not only from internal medicine but also from other fields, such as immunology and pediatrics. An epidemiologist usually has completed three years of specialized training and a year of independent research or teaching.

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