Sadaf Lynes, currently studying the MSc Public Health by distance learning at LSHTM, is the Senior Advisor to the CEO of the Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control in Saudi Arabia. In this interview, Sadaf explains how the COVID-19 has impacted her work.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work?
The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SCDC) is a key player in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a majority of the SCDC staff including the national laboratory are engaged in the response. It has been amazing to witness the dedication and the time each team member is spending. A 9-5 working day no longer exists.
In addition to supporting the teams in the strategic areas that ensure there is continuing development within non COVID-19 areas, I am involved in the COVID-19 work. My particular contribution is in areas related to developing ministerial level guidance, for example, community resilience. My role has been supporting the discussions to develop recommendations to be presented to the Ministry of Health. This includes co-authoring some of the guidelines and recommendations as part of a multidisciplinary group which includes SCDC epidemiologists, scientists and modellers.
In addition, my role has been to manage the strategic partnerships with international public health organisations in sharing and exchange of: knowledge, approaches and emerging evidence.
How have you been responding to the outbreak personally?
I live in Dubai, in partial lockdown. We have been physical distancing which has included wearing masks outside (and gloves whilst shopping). Hand hygiene has increased including carrying sanitizers. My 10 year old son has been at home since March – remote learning with live and pre-recorded lessons are in place and both my husband and I have been supporting his learning whilst working (and trying to study). We go out once a day for a walk but have mainly been at home. We have separated out spaces in our home to give each other space.
How has your country’s response to the outbreak affected your work?
I live in Dubai and my work is in Riyadh so pre-COVID I would be commuting between the two. I have been working remotely since early March when international flights were stopped. My colleagues in Saudi Arabia have been working remotely since April.
Remote working for me has been working well as we have virtual meetings and are in contact frequently using electronic platforms. Most of my work does not require me to be on the ground but remote working has meant that most of us have been working increased hours with shorter turnaround times to produce whatever is required. There is an increased flexibility to take calls and join discussions and the sense of ‘9-5’ does not apply. As we work in public health we take this as a professional responsibility.
How have your studies at LSHTM helped you during this outbreak?
They have been pivotal – I am very experienced in how health systems work and strategic approaches to strengthening health systems and leveraging multi-sectoral partnership. But the LSHTM training has equipped me with understanding and knowledge of how to apply the science of public health more effectively.
Thank you for sharing your story. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to recognise the huge effort of my public health colleagues in the SCDC and other public health , healthcare and researchers who are working tirelessly to support the COVID-19 response. Also to the workers within essential services.
LSHTM experts are at the forefront of efforts to map the progression of COVID-19, advise governments and global health bodies, and advance the public and scientific community’s understanding of the virus. We have launched a response fund to ensure this vital research continues to support global response efforts and help to save lives around the world.