Professor Spotlight: Allison Chamberlain

"For years, there was just this itch I wanted to scratch," says Assistant Professor Allison Chamberlain, Ph.D., as she talks about her part-time role as an epidemiology consultant for the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness. In this newly created position, Chamberlain helps the health department analyze data and provides them with guidance. "I've spent the majority of my career working in academia. I wanted experience working with a local health department... to make what I do more connected to the people who are involved in the promotion of public health."Allison Chamberlain

Growing up in Charleston, S.C., the daughter of a medical transcriptionist mother and a biologist father, health and science have always inhabited an important part of Chamberlain's world. When Hurricane Hugo flattened homes in her neighborhood in 1989, she had a front-row seat to disaster preparedness and response, which has stuck with her as an investigator today.  

"I think I really like to hone in on things that can end up being a teaching tool for public health in the end. That is also a great way to expose students to a way of looking at public health problems—assess what's going on now, and how to approach a similar problem in the future," says Chamberlain, who has spent the bulk of her young career on pandemic preparedness and disease.

Recent projects include reviewing the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's responses to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Bronx in 2015 and analyzing how OBGYN offices were utilizing their websites to communicate Zika recommendations. Lately, as Chamberlain began leaning more toward implementation science, she started to wonder if there was a need for an epidemiologic consultant in the Atlanta area.

This led her to a meeting with the [then] commissioner of Georgia Department of Public Health Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. (Fitzgerald is now director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Fitzgerald mentioned she had been speaking with Dean James Curran about her desire to develop an official partnership between an academic institution like Emory and the health department. Dean Curran encouraged the idea and suggested that Chamberlain focus her efforts on Fulton County. From there, she was connected with Fulton County District Health Director, Kathleen Toomey, M.D., who agreed to bring Chamberlain on as a consultant starting in mid-August. 

Chamberlain's role is brand-new to both Emory and to Fulton County, so the job will evolve over time. Given the county's large quantity of HIV and STD data, it's likely she'll start there (both in analyzing the data and providing advice to the health department).

Research Interests

Health communication

Maternal and child health

Public health preparedness and response

"I don't have a background in HIV. What I do have is a Ph.D. in epidemiology that I can use to help me sift through the information. I also have access to an institution full of experts and students who I can refer to for help.” She also hopes to leverage her experience to help provide thesis and practica opportunities for Rollins students.

While Chamberlain will be spending less time at Rollins, she will still be seen on campus teaching health preparedness and bioterrorism, serving as assistant director of the Emory Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research, and advising students in Emory's Student Outbreak Response Team organization—at least, until her third child arrives in November.

"Work-life balance is crucial to me," says Chamberlain, citing time with family, running, and interior design as favorite past times. "I guess you could say it's my own emergency preparedness plan." 

Visit, a project Chamberlain assisted with to learn about vaccine recommendations for pregnant women, as well as the work done by the MOMVAX research team.