Today I want to write about two of my favourite things about LSHTM: the students, and the staff.
One of the aspects of the School I have most enjoyed is meeting such a diverse, intelligent and enthusiastic collection of students. People have travelled to London from scores of countries, and from many backgrounds, but they all have a passion both to learn, and then to use that learning to advance medicine somewhere in the world.
On my course alone there are people from Trinidad, USA, Jordan, Qatar and China, plus numerous European countries. And the backgrounds are wide are varied: as well as a handful of doctors we have people who have worked for pharmaceutical companies, a civil servant, a charity worker, someone who worked for a shipping company… We also have two women with PhD’s in other subjects – some people just can’t get enough education!
One of the advantages of such a diverse student body is the wealth of knowledge from which we can all learn. As someone who came to the school with no medical background, I’ve often had questions about particular diseases, or about the health system in certain countries. I’ve always had someone I can turn to answer my question, no matter how trivial or simple it may have appeared to them!
We have lots of time for group work in our lessons, which means an opportunity to learn from other people. Many times I’ve found then when I’ve been struggling with a new concept spending just a few minutes with another student can help to unlock it in my mind. I learn best through talking about the subject, and especially talking with people who are thinking about the problem in subtly different ways. Our timetable gives us plenty of opportunities to learn from each other, and I’m lucky that my class is small enough that we all know each other by name, but large enough so there is always someone who can explain the solution to me!
But obviously the main way of learning has been via the staff, and again in that respect I feel lucky to have chosen LSHTM. It’s not just that standard of teaching has been excellent (which it has, almost universally), but that there are so many other opportunities to learn from the current research the staff here are working on. For instance, every Monday evening there is a lecture on a different aspect of global health. These could cover a major disease such as HIV or TB, or an overarching theme such as the impact of climate change on global health. Each lecture is given by someone who is working in the field, which means that the lectures are not only right up-to-date but also full of anecdotes from recent research. I find that it’s those small details which really help a lecture come to life, and illustrate the subject more than slides full of facts and figures.
In addition to these Monday night lectures there are also daily lunchtime seminars on a wide range of subjects, often more in depth for people with a keen interest in the subject. Although time pressure has meant I’ve struggled to attend as many of these as I would have liked, I have been to a few – although as I’m studying statistics they’ve been on such unglamorous topics as Causal Inference and Measurement Error!