The Taiwan Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), a two-year, on-the-job training program, was established in 1984 with assistance from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) after a large outbreak of poliomyelitis in 1982. The program emphasizes the importance of hands-on experience in field investigations and analysis of practical cases. Originally, the FETP was supervised by the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control (BCDC) of the Department of Health. For more effective collaboration with other public health agencies, the FETP merged with the National Institute of Preventive Medicine (NIPM) in 1988. After the enterovirus outbreak in 1998, the FETP, along with BCDC, NIPM, and the Disease Surveillance and Quarantine Service, integrated into the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) in 2000.
Since the FETP began in the 1980s, four to 12 trainees with varying educational backgrounds in health-related fields are recruited into the two-year training program each year. In 2005, Taiwan CDC began to recruit medical officers in preparation for emerging infectious diseases. Since then, the FETP has become a mandatory training program for newly recruited medical officers. There are now 35 cohorts, with over 100 graduates having successfully completed their training. Each graduate receives a certificate and becomes an FETP consultant.
During the past few years, the program has been altered to better comply with international standards, which recommend a shift toward competency-based training. The length of introductory didactic training has thus decreased to four weeks, during which the fellows are taught the fundamentals of public health, including epidemiology, biostatistics, public health ethics and law, surveillance, outbreak investigation, and communication. After completing the introductory course, each trainee participates in outbreak investigations and surveillance evaluation. During the second year, fellows conduct their analytic research projects. These projects focus on current health problems in Taiwan.
Fellows also have the opportunity to participate in national and international conferences. FETP fellows’ presentations and publications are listed on the Taiwan FETP website. In response to COVID-19, Taiwan FETP, including supervisors, alumni, and trainees formed a rapid response team at the Central Epidemic Command Center, and participated in surveillance and risk assessment, outbreak investigations and contact tracing, case management and outcome follow-up, repatriation missions and quarantine, reviewing and providing evidence or guidance, risk communications, and international collaboration.