Remembering Jim Mendlein

Remembering a Friend

This February, TEPHINET announced the opening of its first cycle of accreditation of Field Epidemiology Training Programs. This landmark in the history of our 19-year-old organization was reached thanks to the commitment of program members and partner organizations to increasing the quality and impact of the work we all do to improve the health of nations by increasing capacity. Following more than a decade-long period of its formulation, TEPHINET embarked on a project to pilot-test our accreditation framework and develop a model to implement it. One of the first people we thought to take the lead on this project was Dr. James Mendlein, who had retired from the CDC in 2007.

Dr. Mendlein, or Jim as everybody knew him, had an extraordinary ability to work with people of different countries, languages, and backgrounds. This, coupled with his unequivocal passion and dedication to the growth and nurturance of FETPs, moved us to ask him to help us. The project was developed within five months, during which Dr. Mendlein visited four FETP programs located on four different continents, working long hours and sorting out countless challenges graciously and sensibly. Most importantly, his dedication, patience, and indefatigable team spirit resulted in a report that paved the road which led us to develop the infrastructure needed to implement this important project. 

In a manner characteristic of Jim's humble and profoundly humane nature, he enabled and inspired programs to conduct comprehensive evaluations of their work and to develop goals for continued improvement. 

Our organization and its affiliate programs celebrate Jim's life and public health contributions. We all greatly miss him and will be sure to follow his example of integrity, dedication, and passion for global health.

Jim is still present among us through his work. He will be forever valued for his important contributions to TEPHINET’s vision of improving health through a global network dedicated to quality training in applied epidemiology and public health practice.

Our hearts are with Carmen Varela, his family, and his colleagues in this time of sorrow.

Farewell, Jim.

Dionisio Jose Herrera Guibert, MD, PhD
Director of TEPHINET

About James M. Mendlein, MPH, PhD, (CAPT, USPHS):

Prior to joining CDC, Jim received his PhD and MPH from the University of California Los Angeles, and BA in Psychology from the Catholic University of America. Joining CDC in the 1985 EIS class, Jim’s career began in the Division of Injury Control, where he was instrumental in the first community-based injury surveillance and prevention program, and the first US injury mortality atlas. Subsequently he served as the principal author on the CDC handbook, Using Chronic Disease Data, a guide for state and local health departments in the use of surveillance data to design and evaluate chronic disease prevention and control programs. With this focus, Jim worked with many health departments across the US, and the Indian Health Service. It also set him on a path for international collaborations, particularly in China, where his work as technical advisor to the Tianjin Non-Communicable Disease Prevention Project created a model community-wide chronic disease surveillance and intervention program, which was subsequently emulated in several urban settings.
Jim next served in the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (1993) where he continued his work with the states on use and interpretation of data, including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Data for Decision Making project. Here he co-authored major papers on methodology, nutrient intakes, coronary heart disease risk factors, diabetes, and women’s health in survey participants. These activities helped set the stage for his move to the Division of International Health (1999) and the Field Epidemiology and Training Program (FETP). His collaborations with FETP included curriculum development, teaching, mentoring, and extended his influence to epidemiologists in many countries (e.g., Egypt, Jordan, and Brazil). As team lead, Jim was instrumental in the development of the China FETP since 2001, annually teaching and continuously mentoring Chinese residents’ investigations, presentations and publications. Following retirement, Jim divided his time among friends, colleagues, and family in Stockholm, Atlanta, and Massillon, Ohio. He also completed several consultations with TEPHINET in support of FETPs. In particular, he is recognized by TEPHINET for his leadership in evaluation and quality improvement of FETPs around the world.