This month we spoke to MSc Public Health in Developing Countries (now called Public Health for Development) alumna, Claire Gwayi-Chore. Claire studied at the School from 2015-2016 and is currently working as an Implementation Science Research Consultant at the University of Washington School of Public Health, Global Health Department. In this alumni profile, Claire told us about her experience of studying at the School and how her studies have contributed to her career development.
In 2014, Claire started working with the TUMIKIA Project, a randomised control trial in Kenya assessing the feasibility of eliminating soil-transmitted helminths, based out of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. While working on this project, she was greatly impressed by the study team’s skills in implementing commuity-based trials in developing countries. “The MSc programme seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain more technical skills while continuing to gain practical field experience within my interest of implementing community-based interventions”.
“I was initially surprised with the fast pace of the modules in term one. I was fortunate to have a very supportive personal tutor, Jeroen Ensink, who not only provided me with academic counsel, but also provided support in my personal life, which helped me to quickly adapt to the pace of the programme and to life in London. He encouraged me to work hard while at the same time showed me the importance of managing my expectations. I am fully honoured to have had the time I did with Jeroen”.
Claire told us that two of the most important things she learnt from LSHTM are that public health at its core is about dignity, and also the importance of ethics in research and practice. “I had not been previously introduced to these ideas and I aim to continue to share these key messages in my future work. I also hope that LSHTM will strengthen these messages by embedding them more directly into its curricula”.
“I currently work in the field of implementation science, which aims to transform efficacious research into high-quality, sustainable public health programmes. The module ‘Evaluation of Public Health Interventions’ was incredibly useful in helping me get my current position as I directly used the process and impact evaluation skills and knowledge gained from that class during the interview process”.
Claire’s favourite aspect of LSHTM reached beyond the classroom. “In addition to access to some of the most amazing professors and lectures, networking and learning amongst my classmates – within and outside of my cohort – was an invaluable experience. Every single day, I was able to view the world from the perspective of humanitarian workers, dentists, clinicians, epidemiologists, anthropologists, etc. As part of a diverse cohort, I learned new approaches to old questions and formed new questions to challenge old approaches”.
Claire advises current students to get to know their classmates both within and outside of their cohort. “I have made some amazing connections that I know will last a lifetime”. She also advises them to take advantage of the time they have with their professors. “Ask them questions about their career paths and their opinions on current trends in public health. This type of seasoned advice is invaluable and these networks are very important when advancing your career”. Her final piece of advice is to take advantage of being in the UK and travel. “Limit the coffee shops and save for travel adventures. In just a few hours on a train you can be in a completely different country”.
Claire’s proudest moment in her career so far has been her first publication in a major public health journal – the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which occurred as a result of her involvement with the TUMIKIA Project. “The first time is always the sweetest and I look forward to many more opportunities”.
Claire was recently accepted onto the Global Health Implementation Science PhD programme at the University of Washington where she received a full scholarship through the Department of Global Health Excellence Award. “My learning and field experience during my time at LSHTM played a major role in my acceptance as they helped me clearly articulate where I want to progress my career and how I envision using my competencies to achieve my goals. Additionally, with LSHTM being such a prestigious school, I had the opportunity to network with some prominent faculty alumni who supported my doctoral application by providing influential letters of recommendation. I am forever grateful for the unparalleled support from my Course Director Krystyna Makowiecka throughout the process.”
Claire is excited for her future in public health research and practice. “For my doctoral programme and beyond, I am looking forward to combining my interests in community-based implementation, health education, impact evaluation, and behavioural economics to help strengthen the implementation of community-based programmes in low- and middle-income countries like my own community in Kenya”.
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