For this week’s Alumni Profile we spoke to alumnus Dr Enrique San-Gil Caballero, who studied not just one Master’s degree at the School but two: he graduated with an MSc in Virology in 1992 before studying the MSc in Infectious Diseases in 2014 (by Distance Learning). Dr San-Gil Caballero is now the Coordinator of the Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control Unit at the Hospital San Juan de Dios in San José, Costa Rica.
Why did you decide to study at the School? The British Council gave me a grant on behalf of the Overseas Development Agency of the British government in 1991, so I studied one year at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and in November 1992 I obtained my MSc in Virology. Years later I realised that it would be possible to obtain an MSc in Infectious Diseases with the International Programmes of the University of London, under the academic guidance of the School.
How have your degrees from the School helped you in your career? My degrees in London were much appreciated and receive a very high prestige in the entire world – and Costa Rica is not an exception. The degrees gave me the opportunity to begin working at the Institute for Health Research at the University of Costa Rica. I worked there for more than nine years, mainly doing laboratory and field work on the epidemiology of HIV and viral hepatitis in different high risk populations.
What challenges did you face whilst studying and how did you overcome them? During my studies in London at the beginning it was difficult to be far away from my home country and family and to get used to a completely new world, very different from the clinical grounds in which I had worked before (as I studied medicine and later on specialised in Paediatrics). When I did the MSc in Infectious Diseases the harder thing was to work more than 13 hours daily in different hospitals and come back to my home tired and have to study. I had to take vacations to prepare for the exams and do the assignments. I always believed though that I can succeed when I have a very clear goal in mind. I have the support of my family, my faith and my strength is always God, and I could not allow myself to come back without the degree that I had come to London to obtain.
What has been the proudest moment of your career? When I was called by the Director General of the Hospital San Juan de Dios and given the task to create the Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control Unit, when the hospital was facing the great challenge of fighting a serious outbreak of Clostridium difficile among its patients as well as the 2009 Influenza H1N1 pandemic. The Hospital is the oldest and biggest in Costa Rica – it was founded in 1845 and has 650 beds. It’s a tertiary, highly specialised national hospital.
What do you hope to further achieve in your field? I would like to work in an international health agency such as the World Health Organization and also obtain a PhD, in order to do more research on infectious diseases and their epidemiology.
Any advice for current or prospective students? Do have clear objectives in mind and never give up when you face different obstacles. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to study in such an excellent public health school as the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; I recommend it for anyone who is interested in public health and all related fields.