Current job title: Paediatrician & Research Fellow, Centre for International Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, University of Melbourne.
Areas of interest: Refugee and asylum seeker health, Public health, Child health
What are you doing now?
I am a Paediatrician working at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, and a Research Fellow at the Centre for International Child Health at the University of Melbourne. This means I do a mix of clinical work and public health/research. My clinical work mostly involves refugee health, doing weekly clinics for refugee and asylum seeker families and the Victorian paediatric tuberculosis clinic. This also involves refugee health research, policy work, and sitting on the Victorian tuberculosis advisory panel.
My public health/research work mostly involves working on a project that seeks to improve oxygen therapy for children and newborns in 12 district hospitals. As I write this I am in Abeokuta, southwest Nigeria, having just completed the set-up and training in the first hospital. This is messy, real-life, health development work – but today is one of those days where you are reminded why it is worth it. Yesterday I saw a baby struggling to breath with a blood oxygen level of 56%, and there was no oxygen available. Today the neonatal ward is giving multiple babies oxygen from the system we have just installed, and the nurses are fresh from training and full of excitement at what they can now offer. There will be many more challenges to face, but already the hospital director is thinking about how this can be expanded to other wards.
What did you do after finishing medical school/university studies?
I spent my first few post-graduate years doing diverse clinical work in Melbourne, Alice Springs, and with Medecins sans Frontieres in Sudan. This gave me broad clinical skills, plus a taste of clinical and public health work in resource limited settings. I did a Masters of International Development on the side, as that was always my passion and I wanted to gain a critical viewpoint on aid and development.
Following this I did my paediatric fellowship training, mostly in Melbourne and Alice Springs, then I moved to the US to do a Masters of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. The MPH helped me develop my public health and research skills, meet and work with some amazing people in the world of global health, and travel to Afghanistan to work with the Ministry of Health around clinical guidelines.
Since returning from the US I’ve been working at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Centre for International Child Health in Melbourne, and chipping away at my PhD.
What was your ‘big break’?
I don’t really believe in big breaks. I believe it doing the very best at whatever job you are doing, and making yourself available for whenever opportunity comes knocking. Whatever ‘breaks’ I have had would not have been possible without this.
Where are you headed/What’s your dream job? Are you in it now?
My dream job is in evolution, and I’m loving what I’m doing now. Ideally I’d like to continue some kind of mix of clinical paediatrics and public health work, along with some teaching. I think this will probably mean being based abroad for much of the next decade, and maybe it will involve working for the WHO or UNICEF. But life has surprised me enough times to know that my best plans will probably be trumped.
What did you study that has helped you (during or since medical school)?
I loved my International Development study, and I feel it has given me a more critical and holistic understanding of global health and development than perhaps most people working in “global health”. Doing a Masters of Public Health is absolutely core for anyone wanting to work in global health – but it is a really broad program so you need to tailor it to your needs and goals.
Top tip for students interested in a similar global health pathway?
Think about what skills you want to put into your global health “tool kit”. They need to be useful, tangible skills, not vague expressions like ‘public health’ or ‘research’. Then seek opportunities to learn and sharpen those skills.
Some of your most valuable experiences and learning will come accidentally. This is why it is so important to work hard in your job and be open to opportunities – even if you can’t fully see how they are useful or important at the time.
When I am not doing global health you’ll find me…
Hanging out with family, running, gardening, reading, and sometimes playing with Lego