Alumni Innovators: Sean Leung

Sean Leung is Senior Charities Manager at The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. He studied for an MSc Public Health at LSHTM. In the latest of our posts celebrating 120 years of health innovation at LSHTM, Sean (pictured above, taking part in the Hong Kong Streetathon organised by the Run Our City social enterprise) told us about his time at the School and what innovation means to him.

Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?

After working in the philanthropy and public sectors for years, it was about time to get refreshed and to acquire the latest knowledge in policy formulation on public health fronts. LSHTM offers, without doubt, one of the best programmes in public health supported by its global network of research centres and alumni.  I was also attracted by the interesting ties between Hong Kong and LSHTM, which could be traced back to the establishment by Sir Patrick Manson of Hong Kong’s first medical school in 1887, before he went back to London to start LSHTM in 1899 (‘History and Health’ is obviously my favourite course). More importantly, LSHTM is among the few which offer distance learning courses, suiting my work schedule the best.

How has your degree at LSHTM complemented your career?

The MSc Public Health provided me with the depth of knowledge to understand the latest trends and threats in public health, as well as a breadth of different perspectives to see problems with fresh eyes. For instance, when conceptualising a new public health initiative at work, the latest findings in social determinants of health have surely enriched various project components and broadened my horizons in terms of incorporated non-health services. This would not be possible without the solid academic foundation that the degree at LSHTM gave me.

Apart from the academic element, LSHTM’s international network of staff and alumni has helped the career advancement of world-leading experts and professionals. An LSHTM degree carries much more weight than one would imagine.

What does innovation mean to you?

When nuclear technologies were used for making ammunitions and diagnosis; malaria eradication for winning hearts and minds and disease control; (re)-discovery of artemisinin for demonstrating political prowess and treating malaria, there is always a fine line between devils and angels behind the driving force of innovation.

The century-old ethic of beneficence and non-maleficence should always be close to our hearts when we innovate. They matter even more in public health as our innovation (either technologically or in systemic changes) will have more long-lasting and community-wide impacts and consequences.

How can innovation solve challenges in global health?

Innovation is more than just technological advancements. Breaking silos and facilitating collaborations across disciplines and professionals is vital in the face of the growing need to address social determinants of health in this globalised world village.  Healthcare alone is insufficient to address the increasingly complex problems of global health; innovative cross-sectoral partnership and collaboration could be a new way out.

How do you use innovation in your work?

Healthcare workers have been encouraging patients to do more exercise for decades; and sports scientists are busy designing disease-specific exercise programmes; and recent developments in wearable technologies enable real-time feedback of physical activities. These fields of disciplines have been growing within their own worlds to tackle the burdening tolls of physical inactivity; but they do not cross.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust supports the Chinese University of Hong Kong to roll out the ‘Exercise is Medicine’ project which aims to address the rising burden of chronic conditions and physical inactivity.  With the ‘exercise prescription’ from healthcare professionals, supervision by physical fitness trainers and real-time activity recording, the project aims to assist patients with chronic diseases in forming a habit of exercising. Although the wearable technologies are not cutting-edge and exercise programmes are readily available, the innovation comes from the partnership of these disciplines to tackle one of the great non-communicable diseases, physical inactivity.

What advice do you have for current students?

LSHTM offers an array of courses, many of which are world-leading, and it is possible to select those outside your registered programme. “Stay foolish. Stay hungry”: do not think too much about grades and time, enjoy what you like and want!

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