Usama Bilal is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a member of the Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University. He joined IAPHS in 2018. Learn more about Usama on his website and follow him on twitter @usama_bilal.
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, where did you go to graduate school, what makes you jump out of bed each morning?
I’m originally from Spain, where I did my MD (University of Oviedo) and MPH (University of Alcala) and then got a scholarship to do my PhD in Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I defended my dissertation in 2017, looking at neighborhood social and economic change, food environment changes and diabetes incidence. Then I started a postdoc at Drexel University and recently transitioned into a faculty position. The main thing that makes me jump out of bed each morning (other than the alarm clock) is the understanding that there’s a lot of work to do in making sure that health equity is realized, both within Western economies and in places that suffered colonialism for centuries.
How do you define yourself as a population health professional?
I am a social epidemiologist that works mostly in urban health, so I consider myself an “urban epidemiologist” even if that’s not a very common term. I leverage tools from many disciplines (epidemiology, statistics, demography, urban planning, quantitative sociology, econometrics) to improve descriptions of population health and health inequalities in cities.
What disciplines do you engage with and are there disciplines that you would like to engage with?
I have been engaging a whole lot with demographers lately, and it still shocks me that demography is not a mainstream part of epidemiology curricula. I also engage with urban planners but would like to do more of that, especially as I get more into complex systems.