Epidemiology & Technology

About Me

Hello There. This is Vivek. Professionally, I am a public health specialist working as an Additional Professor of Community Ophthalmology, Dr RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS, New Delhi. I also have prior work in domains of non-communicable diseases, influenza, operational research and tuberculosis. Technology has always fascinated me. I remember the days from my childhood when I had taken apart calculators, and audio-systems and stared at the back of TVs wondering how the CRTs were working.

Interest in health sciences made me forego all interests and I joined MBBS in summer of 1996. Realising how it was more and more about disease management, and less and less about health, I joined MD in Community Medicine from the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi  in 2002. This got me into data, data management, analytics, automated reporting etc.

Initial couple of years, it was all about getting data in using Epi-Info 2002 or Access and analyzing the same using SPSS. When I had to redo the analysis, I realised the value of syntax files. But boy, did I find the syntax of SPSS messy and difficult. I had to leave the comfort of SPSS for my thesis data analysis that involved survey statistics for which routines were not available in the version we had access to in the institute. That was my first interaction with Stata (version 7). The simplicity of the commands won me over and I have been an ardent fan ever since.

I have come to appreciate the need for capturing clean data along the way. The initial tool of the trade was EpiInfo. I did some extensive menu-programming with Epi-Info 2002 for launching individual forms or data exports, and a button based copy-paste functionality between two-disparate epi-info data bases for the influenza laboratory database! I did also dabble with EpiData for a while for field FARI surveillance but it did not really work out. With CDC, we organized an Epi-Info workshop at AIIMS and subsequently I conducted Epi-Info7 trainings  in the Research Methodology Workshops during my days at NIMHANS. Also when working with the CDC cooperative-agreements and the field RCT of Inactivated Trivalent Influenza Vaccine, I became conversant with MySQL, PHP, getting MySQL data into Stata through CSVs, data cleaning, Cardiff Teleform etc. Heady days ! Any did I not mention, we also did some GPS data collection using Magellan Triton handhelds and mapped them using Google Earth, create some GPX files etc.

Come 2012, I joined NIMHANS Bangalore as a faculty of Epidemiology, dabbled some with ODK and also setup the ODK Aggregate Server, and organised one ODK training there. Working with the fantastic Centre for Addiction Medicine, NIMHANS team, I helped setup the eLearning environment of the Virtual Learning Centre / VKN / Project ECHO NIMHANS. It was based around WordPress and LearnDash and yes we were Zooming in 2014- way ahead of the COVID times. VB and Prabhat sir, you rock ! Kudos for taking the VKN to such great heights!  At the same time, we kicked off the National Mental Health Survey pilot survey in Kolar, with all data collected in handheld tablets that were actually running Windows 8 with Apache-MySQL-PHP stack. There was no central data sync. Interesting challenge it was to understand the application code (spoiler alert – it was written in Zend Framework), MySQL DB structures, write custom MySQL views, pull data for of each form directly into Stata via ODBC, do the data management (merges, reshapes, recodes, cleaning) and generate the reports with data going to excel files (putexcel command had just come it and it rocked my nerdy world)! Work with The Union (IUALTD), 2015 for few months, made me appreciate the value of EpiData (classic, not the new EpiData Manager) and I feel that it has to be the go-to tool right now, due to its simplicity, elegance and speed.

That all brings me to here and now. I guess somewhere along the line, I have become a proper techno-geek ! For long have I thought of a platform of sharing my experiences with fellow-nerds. Finally, am taking the plunge. Wish me luck ! By the way, there is going to be more than just data analysis on this blog …

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=W1Q7DVEAAAAJ&hl=en

ORCID – https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6157-3705/print