Peter Raynes: HIV Response Sector Specialist

MSc Public Health for Developing Countries alumnus, Peter Raynes told us about his time studying at the School and the impact his studies have had on his career.

Peter decided to study at the School in 2004 as he  wanted to strengthen his ability to contribute to the HIV response sector. “I had some years experience working in developing countries but realised that to be more effective I needed a stronger technical background of key aspects of HIV transmission, prevention, treatment, the wider public health context in a development setting. Additionally, while I had substantial development experience I also needed more specific qualifications in order to be successful in finding a significant role for my work. I decided on LSHTM and the course because of its reputation and relevance. I knew it was an internationally recognised qualification, which would give me the background I required, and would be valued by potential employers and partners”.

Peter explained that the subject content and methodology were generally excellent, as were the teaching staff and facilities. “The setting of being in central London was great. A highlight of this period for me was the enormous wealth of diverse experience and wisdom among my peer students which greatly enhanced the learning process for me”.

The challenges that Peter faced while studying at the School were mainly personal. “I struggled a little to find suitable accommodation because my wife joined me in London while I was studying and we had our first child, my daughter Niamh, towards the end of my period of study. On the bright side, the maternal and child health facilities for this happy event were of course wonderful”.

As Peter had intended, his course at LSHTM provided him with the background that he needed to get involved in a significant role in contributing to the HIV response. “I worked as a Programme Manager for Save the Children in Papua New Guinea, overseeing the largest NGO HIV programme in the country which included a UNAIDS recognised best practice approach to working with women in sex work and men who have sex with men. We also ran sexual health clinics, and programmes for youth and community members. The work included experimental approaches and we were able to contribute to research.  I was able to draw on the knowledge and skills developed during the period of study to strengthen my work in the sector. The qualification was also well appreciated by employers as I had hoped it would be”.

The enormous diversity of peer students coming from every continent, from South and Central Americas, thoughout Africa and South Asia to Mongolia and the Pacific, and from a mixture of settings and sectors, was a key highlight of Peter’s study period. “We had students from a range of health specialisms including health managers, midwifes, doctors, surgeons and researchers. There were also development specialists and humanitarians, who like me were interested in engaging in the health sector as a key relevant field in international development, but were not clinically trained”. Following his studies, Peter went to work in Melanesia, which meant that he was remote from many of my peers. “I was not able to draw on this network as well as I should have done. However I did engage frequently following the course with various ex-colleagues and always benefited from these interactions”.

Peter’s work in HIV has broadened to address the underlying causes of poverty and social injustice and this includes a range of relevant areas, including maternal and child health, water and sanitation, and also education, governance and gender equality issues. “I am proud to be able to work and contribute to these key areas and my background has enabled me to adapt key principles to broader aspects of development and humanitarian work”.

Peter advises current students to get the most out of the course – “the academic and practical aspects, but also work hard to form relationships with your peers”. He emphasised that there is a lot to be learnt  from fellow students, and he encourages current students to find every opportunity to get to know their peers and discuss key issues. “Try to ensure this process does not end at the completion of the course – form a strong network and maintain it”.

“I hope this course will continue to give others what it has given me and my peers – it is definitely a worth while investment for all those interested in engaging in the health field in development and humanitarian sectors. Also long live LSHTM which is a great institution contributing on a global level”.

Feature image courtesy of Peter Raynes.

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