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Alumni Profile: Dr Hamsadvani Kuganantham

Dr Hamsadvani Kuganantham, MSc Health Policy, Planning and Financing (HPPF) alumna and Public Health Specialist in Health Systems at WHO, India shared where her career has taken her since graduating from the School and told us how her father influenced her decision to pursue a career in Public Health.

Hamsadvani studied at the School in 2009, being the second generation in her family to do so. “My dad studied Public Health in the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 1998, ever since then I have been inspired to study in this prestigious institution. I have heard a lot about the history of the school from my dad. I have gone through the student profile books and I have admired the diverse background and passion of the students who were trained [there].”

Although Hamsadvani was thrilled to join the School, her time here was not without challenges. “The methods in which students were assessed was different from what I was exposed to in India, but overtime I was able to work through this issue with help from friends and tutors.” She found the group interactions and brainstorming sessions useful even after she graduated from the School. Along with the School community, the advice and guidance that Hamsadvani received from her father, a Public Health Practitioner, was invaluable. Hamsadvani stated that her father is one of the few people she knows who has been lucky enough to have had an adventure filled career.

Hamsadvani went on to explain that her studies at the School immensely shaped her career; they opened up avenues that she did not know existed and gave her a whole new perspective on health systems and the sociopolitical conditions in which decisions are made in healthcare. To date she has worked at Public Health for India (PHFI), the World Health Organization (WHO) in India, and Novartis.

Five years after graduating from the School, Hamsadvani is currently working for WHO India as a Public Health Specialist in the Health Systems team under the leadership of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine alumnus Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative for India. “Dr Bekedam undertook the same course (MSc HPPF) in 1998. It is a pleasure and a great sense of belonging to know that I am connected to the School and its alumni in a number of ways.” In her current role, Hamsadvani works with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) in India both at local and national levels, to promote Universal Health Coverage and improve access  to health technologies.

In the future Hamsadvani would like to work on women’s health, mental health, and non-communicable diseases prevalent among low socioeconomic groups and urban sections of society. It is also her dream to work with the School and share her experiences of the Indian Health System. “I had a great opportunity to work with Dr Dina Balabanova, Health Systems at LSHTM, [on] a Rockefeller Foundation funded project titled ‘Good Health at Low Cost’ – What Makes a Successful Health System? where Tamil Nadu (TN), the state in India that I come from was showcased. This project highlighted how the Infant Mortality Rate of TN was lower than other states and how the health system in TN along with other social determinants has helped to achieve this status.”

Hamsadvani has had some key moments in her career; her greatest career achievements so far have been working with public health pioneers in the field during outbreaks such as the swine flu outbreak in Chennai; working with grass root level workers in a rural health centre in Rajasthan to evaluate their health systems; and working with high level decision makers of states with populations of more than 70 million while they were involved in making critical decisions regarding initiatives such as a free medicine scheme. “All of these experiences have given me good exposure to how responsive a health system can be and how training health care workers is immensely important for a health system to function efficiently.”

Hamsadvani advised current students that “life in LSHTM becomes more exciting because of the students who come in every year. The people you meet here during your course will help you learn new things and bring in varied experiences. I would encourage current students to fully make use of this opportunity to interact, network and work together for a great future in public health to bring the best of health outcomes in order to reduce human suffering through your areas of work.”

Hamsadvani closed by saying “I would love to be in touch with alumni and students who would like to learn, work and collaborate in the future for public health projects and activities in Tamil Nadu, India – which proudly houses one of the best health system models in a developing country setting.”

Image courtesy of Dr Hamsadvani Anand Kuganantham

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