Brenton Mayer (James Cook University, 2015)

Current job title: Intern

Areas of interest: Infectious diseases, Health Systems and Policy, Public health and Epidemiology, Effective altruism

What are you doing now?
I’m working as in intern in Cairns, getting Effective Altruism Australia off the ground and thinking about my career direction over the next couple of years (a lot!).

What did you do after finishing medical school?
I’m tentatively booked to speak at GHC and AMSA this year (pending getting time off) and I cofounded Effective Altruism Australia in January, which is doing a pretty good job at giving me no choice but to stay engaged! It’s a charity which looks for the most evidence based and most cost effective charities in the world (based on the research of others like GiveWell) and then raises money for them. https://effectivealtruism.org.au/ Based on how it’s been going so far, we think we’ll raise several hundred thousand in our first year 🙂

What was your ‘big break’?
My big break in global health was reading ‘The Life You Can Save’, a book by Peter Singer which made me realise doctors can do an enormous amount of good in the field of global health. As in, if go about it cleverly we should be able to save hundreds of lives (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGAkrpwyu1k). I think, realising that, there’s no way I could justify not becoming involved. I became involved in The Run to Better Days which my friend was starting up, which ended up becoming pretty big and meant I had to learn about poverty and then speak at a bunch of universities, conferences and schools, which kept me pretty busy from year 3-6 of uni. I also went to the UK and worked for a charity evaluation organisation called Giving What We Can over one Christmas, which was enormously influential. I found out that as doctors working in the developed world, we’re able to ‘save’ around 5-10 years of quality life per year (https://80000hours.org/2012/08/how-many-lives-does-a-doctor-save/). This is great, but we could also save that amount by giving around $1000 to a GiveWell recommended charity. So porque no los dos? Or why not even, let’s not get too crazy here, thinking about giving more than $1000 away per year?

Where are you headed/what’s your dream job? Are you in it now?
I’m seriously thinking about stopping clinical medicine and working full time for Giving What We Can, or about getting into public health, aiming to work in research or policy.

What did you study that has helped you (during or since medical school)?
I have a heap of books I’d like to recommend! In order of their brilliant-ness:

The Life You Can Save – Peter Singer
Doing Good Better – William MacAskill
Poor Economics – Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee

Oh, and you should think about reading this:
https://80000hours.org/career-reviews/medical-careers/
It’s written by this Oxford based non-profit which researches how to do the most good with your career, and whose judgement I respect a great deal.

Top tips for students interested in a similar global health pathway?
If you’re interested in a similar path to me, which is something along the lines of ‘trying to improve global health as effectively as possible’ then you should contact me! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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