Tell us a bit about yourself – what was your PhD about and where did you study?I’ve always been passionate about health, psychology and society. My PhD was in social epidemiology at UCL with Professor Sir Michael Marmot who is well known for the Whitehall studies and leading the World Health Organisation commission on the Social Determinants of Health. The PhD itself focused on the association between education, wealth and obesity in women in low- and middle-income countries using Demographic and Health Surveys data, primarily. The main finding was that education appears to modify the obesogenic effect of wealth in women in middle-income countries (but not low-income countries).
What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?I run a private practice in Transformational Coaching and Consulting focused on careers, leadership and wellbeing (since 2016). After completing my PhD in 2013, I worked with the UK Department of Health on a high profile policy programme (reducing avoidable and premature mortality and multimorbidity) for six months. After that I worked in the International Public Health team of Public Health England in collaboration with United Nations agencies on the 2015 agenda (Disaster Risk Reduction, The Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change Agreements).
Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?Yes, in many ways. These include critical thinking skills, research evaluation and synthesis, writing skills, presenting skills, teaching skills, evidence-policy translation. It opened doors to very interesting projects and opportunities in global health. I also use these skills in my business (writing, researching ideas, science communication) and the credibility a research doctorate affords also helps.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer prospective students considering a PhD?Treat it as a job rather than a Nobel prize. You’ll feel much less anxious, think more clearly and will finish on time. It will also give you time to create connections and engage with opportunities to apply and develop your research outside academia if you’re interested in that.
And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD graduates should do next?Sign up for coaching or personal development courses that stretch you and develop your professional and leadership skills.
Lastly, what’s your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?The Arab Spring happened just before I was due to start collecting data in Egypt. It required a change of plans but it was a momentous, historical time.
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