Professor Rebecca Dawson publishes epidemiological textbook

The first of its kind for undergraduate students


Amasa Smith

Professor Rebecca Dawson of the Biology department published the first undergraduate textbook on epidemiology this summer.

ANGELA MAURONI, Science Editor

Rebecca Dawson, assistant professor of biology, collaborated with Laura Wheeler Poms, a professor of psychology at George Mason University, to create and publish an undergraduate epidemiology textbook.

Newly printed on Aug. 17, Dawson’s textbook, “Understanding Epidemiology: Concepts, Skills & Applications,” is currently only available at Allegheny College and George Mason University.

Dawson’s textbook focuses on teaching students to think critically about global health issues with the use of exercises and case studies.

After being unable to find an introductory textbook to epidemiology, Dawson and Poms came together to create one of their own.

“It’s written for an audience who not only want to do epidemiology, but also for those who know nothing about it and may never study it again,” Dawson explained.

Dawson explained that she and Poms’ manner of thinking complemented each other, making a more thorough coverage of epidemiological topics. They each contributed their own unique thoughts.

This semester offers a class using Dawson’s textbook, giving her an opportunity to assess its effectiveness and presentation in practice.

Dawson involved several students in the work on her textbook. One of them, Erica Bryson, ’15, found the experience enriching.

“I enjoy working with Professor Dawson tremendously given her wide range of knowledge and the passion she demonstrates in and out of the classroom,” Bryson said.

She has continued to work with Professor Dawson on her senior composition, which involves using epidemiological concepts in community-based research.

Bryson read and wrote out answer keys and references for Dawson, offering her perspective frequently.

“I don’t think you can write a student textbook without a student perspective,” Dawson commented. “I think that it’s the perfect opportunity for students to work closely with professors on research.”

Elizabeth Schafer, ’17, also contributed to the composition of the textbook. She helped Dawson log her references while residing at Allegheny over the summer, assuring that Dawson finished that portion before her deadline. Schafer worked closely with Dawson before her contribution as well.

“We did a lot of work that I really enjoyed this summer outside of the book,” Schafer said. “I’ve become really interested in epidemiology.”

In November, the textbook will be released to other universities and become available on Amazon. It will also be sold at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting. The APHA is the biggest, oldest and most diverse collection of global health professionals the world has to offer.

Also in November, Dawson and Poms plan to propose the publication of a second epidemiology textbook. They are debating, however, on whether to make it another undergraduate textbook on the same level or a more advanced piece.