Studying at the School: a distance learning perspective

Photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz

Photo: Justyna Mielnikiewicz

I am currently studying the MSc Global Health Policy by distance learning. As part of the programme, we are offered the opportunity to study up to two modules at the School in London…”

For me as an MSc distance learner all the way from Georgia (Eastern-Europe) it was a great joy to do two in-house modules (‘Health Systems’ and ‘Medical Anthropology’) and spend ten weeks in London from January to March in a very stimulating academic surrounding. I was impressed by the dedicated professors and staff, motivated co-students, well-structured lectures and group seminars and on top of that dozens of extra lunch and after-hour lectures given by special guests or alumni from corporate, governmental, non-profit or academic structures sharing their hands-on experience and advice. I enjoyed the useful IT courses, CV writing and career advice, the perfect library, well-equipped 24/7 computer study rooms and food & beverages with a smile :‘Hi, my good customer!’. All that made up largely for the season’s daily rainfall…

I immersed myself in the crowd and enjoyed being just another student despite my 45 years of age. Only one IT staff member at LSHTM once asked me if I was student or staff… I was silently proud of something else too: the fact that almost nobody found out about my ‘previous life’:  being first lady of Georgia from 2004-2013.  A position which gave me the unique chance of getting involved at a high level in public health and international relations: I became STOP TB Ambassador and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for health-related Millennium Development Goals and as a Board member of the Global Fund I now represent the 22 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Educated as a linguist and translator, I felt the need to switch my career path to the medical profession and got trained in Georgia as a nurse (see photo).  With the ideals of Florence Nightingale in mind, I try to promote the image and quality of the much under-valued nurse and midwife in Georgia.  I also got the chance to set up a nationwide screening program for breast and cervical cancer and introduced prenatal screening with help of the Netherlands, my home country.

My time at LSHTM is offering me what I lacked as an advocate-lobbyist: I have learned to reason and deduce in an academic way, to apply theoretical frameworks and to carefully and precisely express my own opinion building on evidence brought by other scholars and scientists.  The challenge now is to combine field and academic work in order to ‘improve health worldwide’ as the school’s slogan suggests.   Maybe by focusing on that new exciting direction combining global health, international relations and trade: Global Health Diplomacy.  I have chosen it as the theme of my master’s dissertation and am looking forward to come back to London to work on it!

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