Bemidji State University to host epidemiology conference in May

BEMIDJI, Minn. (February 15, 2011) — Bemidji State University, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will be offering a free professional development workshop in epidemiology for middle and high school teachers this May.

Epidemiology is the science of public health. Epidemiologists, or “disease detectives,” look for patterns of disease distribution, formulate hypothesis that might explain that distribution, and test those hypothesis by observing exposures. Epidemiologists also participate in the creation of disease prevention tactics and work to evaluate the effectiveness of those interventions.

Conference participants will learn about the science of epidemiology by focusing on 12 core concepts called “enduring epidemiological understandings.” Conference participants also will participate in directed discussion groups to uncover, explore and develop those core concepts; teach portions of selected existing lessons in multidisciplinary teams; communicate in a variety of ways with other participants about the core concepts; and explore current news items and relate them to principles found in the core concepts.

The conference is targeted at community health practitioners and junior high and high school teachers of science, math, health, social studies and other related disciplines, but will also be useful to any teachers seeking new and creative ways to engage students in learning the scientific method. It will also be useful to teachers preparing students for competitions or events such as the Science Olympiad’s Disease Detective and the Young Epidemiology Scholars Competition.

The workshop will be led by Dr. Diane Marie St. George and Dr. Mark Kaelin. St. George is an alumna of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Health Scholars Program Post-Doctoral Fellowship, and is currently an assistant professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Maryland. Kaelin is a health educator and professor in health and nutrition sciences at Montclair State University. He is a founding member of the Epidemiology Education Movement, a grassroots organization advocating epidemiology education in grades 6-12 to help boost scientific literacy and increase the numbers of students preparing for careers in public health.

The two-day conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 20-21, 2011, at Bemidji State’s American Indian Resource Center, and registration is now open. Conference fees are covered by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but participants are expected to provide their own lodging and meals. Registration must be done online at

Professional development credit can be claimed for the conference based on state-established criteria. The conference will also be available for college credit at the graduate or undergraduate levels. College credit will be offered through Bemidji State’s Center for Extended Learning at regular tuition rates. Contact the center directly for enrollment information at (218) 755-2068, (800) 852-7422 or The conference’s for-credit option will be directed by Dr. James White, associate professor of physical education, health and sport. For more information, contact White at (218) 755-2766.

“This conference will give people in the Bemidji area and our local students and health, science and math teachers an opportunity to be involved in a conference that would be a $500 venture, and it will be free for them,” said Dr. Karl Salscheider, professor of physical education, health and sport at Bemidji State University.

Salscheider was instrumental in bringing the conference to Bemidji State after learning of the opportunity to host it while attending the School Health Education’s Higher Education Academy workshop in Atlanta last year.

The conference at Bemidji State will be one of three sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation this year. The other two conferences will be held at the Carnegie Academy for Science Education in Washington, D.C., from April 18-21, and at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta from June 6-10.

For more information, please contact Dr. Karl Salscheider at (218) 755-2770.