Virtual CPEP Application Q&A
Date posted: Thursday, April 27, 2023
- Morgan Pence, Ph.D., D(ABMM), Cook Children’s Medical Center, CPEP Vice Chair.
- Marc Couturier, Ph.D., D(ABMM), University of Utah, CPEP Program Director.
- Anu Maharjan, Ph.D., D(ABCC), UConn Health, CPEP member.
What is a CPEP Fellowship?
ASM offers 2 or 3-year postgraduate training programs in medical and public health laboratory microbiology and in medical laboratory immunology. The training is overseen by the Subcommittee on Postgraduate Educational Programs (CPEP), and the programs are typically administered by clinical microbiology and immunology laboratories. CPEP Fellowships primarily serve to train postdoctoral fellows to be directors of medical and public health microbiology and medical immunology laboratories. All CPEP Fellows conduct original or collaborative research in conjunction with their clinical training:
- Laboratory management.
- Public health.
- Laboratory safety.
Medical Laboratory ImmunologyMedical laboratory immunology training programs cover the following areas:
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Infectious diseases.
- See CPEP's Essentials and Guidelines of an Accredited Postgraduate Fellowship Program in Medical Laboratory Immunology for additional details.
Medical and Public Health Laboratory MicrobiologyMedical and public health laboratory microbiology training programs cover the following areas:
- Diagnostic bacteriology.
- Parasitology and virology.
- Methods in antimicrobial testing.
- Molecular diagnostic techniques for infectious diseases.
- See CPEP's Essentials and Guidelines of an Accredited Postgraduate Fellowship Program in Medical and Public Health Laboratory Microbiology for additional details.
Completion of a CPEP-approved program also increases fellows' earning potential in their careers (see the most recent salary survey) and provides eligibility for American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) certification.
CPEP Fellowships are open to postdoctoral-level candidates (e.g., Ph.D., M.D., Sc.D., D.O., and Dr. P.H.). Doctorates of Clinical Laboratory Sciences (DCLS) and Pharmacy (PharmD) are not acceptable for admission to a CPEP-accredited program, however, Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences may be accepted upon review by the program director. Desirable prerequisites for the postgraduate training programs may include some of the following—courses in epidemiology, immunology, microbiology, molecular biology, histology, pathogenesis of infection and statistics. Previous work experience in medical and/or public health diagnostic laboratories may be considered when evaluating candidates for the program but is not considered a requirement to apply for CPEP fellowships. A track record of academic achievement (including publications) is generally considered essential.
Each program has individualized eligibility and acceptance criteria. For example, programs may limit applicant acceptance based on visa type, foreign degree, or number of postdoctoral years accumulated. Carefully review each program’s requirements before applying and check with individual programs for specific details.
The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) does not bear any responsibility with respect to the selection, hiring, or termination of The Subcommittee on Postgraduate Educational Programs (CPEP) applicants or fellows. ASM specifies the minimum qualifications for applicants, however each CPEP program has individualized eligibility and acceptance criteria. Application review and final selection, as well as any decision to terminate a fellow’s participation in the program, is made solely by the applicable program.
- Confirm your eligibility (see above).
- Identify the program(s) that you are interested in and note any additional eligibility requirements, as well as program timelines.
- Apply online.
- The program will contact you if they’d like to move forward.
Please note that application review periods are not standardized among the programs, and not all programs accept a new fellow each year.
What are the career options for CPEP Fellows?The goal of the CPEP-approved Fellowship Programs is to prepare graduates for positions as laboratory directors or other leadership roles in the field of medical and public health laboratory microbiology and medical laboratory immunology. Following successful completion of the training program, many CPEP graduates find employment in clinical microbiology or immunology laboratories at academic medical centers and hospital-based systems. CPEP graduates also fill roles in public health laboratories at the state and national levels, large commercial reference laboratories, government bodies such as the CDC and FDA, university research programs, college or university educational settings or in industry-based diagnostic companies with involvement in scientific or research and development related roles with the production of diagnostic testing reagents and equipment. The most common employers of program graduates include hospitals and hospital systems, reference laboratories, public health laboratories or diagnostic companies.
What does a laboratory director do each day?CPEP graduates are active in the discovery, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of infectious and immune mediated diseases, combating the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, responding to bioterrorism events and leading or assisting epidemiologic investigations of outbreaks.
There are 2 primary skill sets required to be a successful laboratory director, and the CPEP program is designed to develop both. The first set is subject matter expertise and high-level analytical thinking. The second set is leadership and management “business” skills that are essential to allow a laboratory director to be effective. Although the settings may vary, many directors have responsibilities such as the following:
- Participate in patient care by serving as consultants to physicians/medical staff in specimen collection, test selection and interpretation, as well as test utilization/algorithms.
- Operational oversight of the diagnostic testing, including evaluation of new testing options, cost/benefit evaluation, annual planning/budgeting, oversight of test validation and optimization.
- Ensure compliance with regulatory and accreditation requirements, quality assurance and safety. Administrative oversight of project management; multiple-level communication and service as clinical microbiology/immunology expert to various organizational entities.
- Serve as liaison with public health laboratories and the CDC.
- Facilitate interactions and collaborations with industry partners for the development diagnostic testing.
- Hospital-based directors are often involved in committees such as infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship, as well as working with interdisciplinary teams to coordinate laboratory resources and responses in the setting of novel pathogen outbreaks and bioterror threats.
- Academic-based directors train pathology residents, infectious diseases fellows, allergy/immunology fellows, microbiology fellows, as well as serve as medical educators in teaching hospitals for laboratory staff and providers and medical students, if the hospital is affiliated with a medical school.
- Academic endeavors may include new diagnostic assay evaluations, investigation of novel pathogens, test development, quality assurance projects, case reports and collaborating with clinicians and scientists on research projects and publications.
How can I prepare to be a candidate for a CPEP Fellowship?It is helpful to talk to those working in the field about the job to gain a general understanding of the function and dynamics of a clinical laboratory. It is common for larger hospitals and academic medical centers to have clinical lab directors on-site and the opportunity to shadow a director can be a valuable experience. If you wish to contact a board certified medical microbiologist or immunologist in your area to discuss professional opportunities, please send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your contact information. A program graduate will contact you. This contact may be a helpful step toward understanding and selecting a postgraduate career path.
In addition, becoming familiar with literature that is germane to the field (e.g., Clinical Microbiology Reviews, MMWR, Manual of Molecular and Clinical Laboratory Immunology or the Journal of Clinical Microbiology) is a good way to familiarize yourself with current topics. Prospective fellows may choose to connect with local clinical microbiology/immunology laboratories to inquire about opportunities to participate in activities such as case/plate rounds or infectious disease case conferences to further develop their understanding of the field. Candidates are responsible for obtaining required permissions and fulfilling appropriate institutional requirements for participation in such activities.
If you’re not a member of ASM, you should consider joining. If you are a member, it may be helpful to attend a local or national meeting if you have the opportunity.
What happens during a CPEP Fellowship?Training in the CPEP-approved programs affords the participating fellow with an in-depth knowledge of clinical aspects of infectious diseases/immunology, specifically as they apply to laboratory diagnosis. Training includes practical bench exercises, clinical experiences, and self-instructional materials.
All fellows receive research training and conduct original or collaborative research in conjunction with their clinical training. In addition, fellows study laboratory management, epidemiology, public health and laboratory safety.
The first year is primarily focused on bench-level training, handling clinical consults and developing the clinical microbiology and immunology knowledge base of the fellow. In the second year, the fellow is expected to function more independently in handling laboratory and clinical consults and participate in research projects, as well as rotations with Infectious Diseases and other services.
Is there a test or board certification for CPEP Fellows?Yes, there is board certification for CPEP Fellows in medical and public health laboratory microbiology. It is offered by the American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) and it certifies doctoral-level microbiologists to direct medical and public health microbiology laboratories. ABMM certification is recognized by federal and state governmental agencies as a significant component toward meeting licensure requirements to direct laboratories engaged in the microbiological diagnosis of human disease. Board certification is required for most medical laboratory positions and provides peer recognition. Completion of a CPEP-accredited postgraduate fellowship confers eligibility for the ABMM examination.
Questions?Clinical and Public Health Microbiology Committee
American Society for Microbiology
1752 N Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036