Austin Porter, Dr.PH., MPH, Named Arkansas’ Deputy State Epidemiologist

By Kev' Moye

Porter, who is also the Arkansas Department of Health’s deputy chief science officer, was recently named Arkansas’ deputy state epidemiologist. In this role, Porter — who has been with the Arkansas Department of Health since 2010 — will support and advocate for the state’s epidemiologists.

“As the deputy state epidemiologist, I provide support, especially to our state epidemiologist, Dr. Mike Cima,” Porter said. “I’ll assist with data analysis, provide guidance regarding how to investigate outbreaks. I’ll also help with keeping epidemiologists aware of what’s going on in the state and nation in terms of various outbreaks and investigations.”

As a community leader, faculty member in the college and team member at the state health department, Porter knew his plate was already full. Initially, he was apprehensive about accepting the position. However, building an even stronger rapport with epidemiologists factored heavily in Porter’s decision to accept the task.

“We have great public health practitioners working at the Department of Health,” he said. “Receiving the opportunity to work closer with them and learn from them was something I wanted to take advantage of. I also want to share my knowledge, especially from what I learned when I served as an injury epidemiologist.”

The deputy state epidemiologist position has a clear parallel to Porter’s duties as an educator and student mentor at the college, he said.

“In relation to the teaching and learning, part of being deputy state epidemiologist, it closely relates to how I’m a faculty member at the College of Public Health because I love to learn and I love to teach as well,” Porter said.

“This appointment also gives me another opportunity to bring additional real-world experiences to the students,” he said. “This will enhance their learning experience and provide them with insight into how practitioners use epidemiological practices in the field. Having the state epidemiologist and deputy state epidemiologist as faculty in the college is unique, and our students will certainly be able to benefit from it.”

Overall, Porter enjoys serving Arkansans. Assuming the role of deputy state epidemiologist is another way to serve and promote the value of public health and epidemiology.

“I love public health practice,” he said. “I love public health research. This role further blends my passion for both fields. You must be passionate about helping people and wanting to learn more as you work to protect the health and well-being of Arkansas. It worked out perfectly for me.”