This week’s Alumni Profile features, Andrew Flagg, who graduated from the School in 2013 with a PGCert in Global Health Policy by Distance Learning . Andrew now works as a Political Adviser for the Socialist and Democrat Group in the European Parliament, Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee in Belgium.
Why did you choose to study at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine?
At the time I was working for a Member of the European Parliament who was very active on European health policy. As this was not my academic background, I wanted to broaden my knowledge and found that the Global Health Policy course offer at the School was an excellent fit to enhance my work at the European Parliament.
What challenges did you face while studying at the School and how did you overcome them?
The main challenge was juggling part-time studies with an extremely demanding job. The year that I was studying coincided with my work on the Clinical Trials Regulation and it proved to be very difficult to find time to dedicate to my studies. However, because I found the course so beneficial to my everyday work and because of the flexible nature of the course material, I managed to fit the lectures and reading in at every opportunity.
How has your degree from the School helped you in your career?
I found the course to be very relevant to my work. For example, I was studying global tobacco control at the same time as working on the European Union Tobacco Products Directive. The extra knowledge and experience I gained on the course helped me make the leap from being a Member of the European Parliament’s assistant to a Political Adviser on the Parliament’s second largest group, serving on the public health committee.
What has been your greatest achievement so far in your career?
I am most proud of the role I played in negotiating the European Union Clinical Trials Regulation. The changes will make Europe much more competitive in terms of medical research, while keeping patient safety at the core. This will also mean that all trials carried out in Europe will be fully transparent permitting all trial results, positive or negative, to be published on a publicly accessible database. This is a big step forward for advancing medical research and protecting those taking part in future trials.
What would you like to go on to achieve?
One of the immediate challenges we all face is the upcoming European Union referendum. The UK’s place in the world is at risk and leaving the European Union would severely damage our ability to regulate the global pharmaceutical, food, tobacco and alcohol industries. I sincerely hope the UK votes firmly to remain in the European Union and repositions itself as a leader in environmental and public health legislation in Europe.
One of the current priorities is to increase access to medicines within Europe and across the world, ensuring fairness and transparency in the pricing of medicines. I also hope we are able to soon complete negotiations on the new Medical Devices Regulation, to improve the legislative framework in the wake of a number of serious problems.
Any advice for current students?
While a part-time course is a big commitment, it is also very rewarding. I would advise people to be realistic about the amount of time they can dedicate to studying and to make sure they can fit part-time learning around their professional and personal lives.
Photo credit: Andrew Flagg, European Union 2015 – Source: EP.