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Interview with Logan Ryan

Public Health graduate Logan Ryan tells us about his experiences of the Pathways to the Public Health Workplace module.

Why did you choose this module?

I chose it because initially when going into the MPH I didn’t realise how many career opportunities were available. I thought you just had to either work for Public Health England or go on to work in academia. But when I saw the options that were available and the actual placements that were available, they were so varied - one even being international - I decided I wanted to take my chance and try and broaden my horizons.

Tell us a bit about the workshops on the Pathways module

We had to go through a professional interview process for this module, and prior to applying we received advice on writing a CV and what to put in an application that would make you stand out.

I entirely reformatted my CV. I hadn’t realised that there was a more effective approach to the structure of your CV and what order it should be in. Until that point I had only ever had weekend retail jobs and back then the CV wasn’t the be all and end all.

To be honest without the CV support I really don’t think I would have come across as professionally as I did in my job applications since the course.

Which project did you undertake for this module?

I worked with the Centre for Human Rights and Development in Kampala, Uganda. They’re health advocates, primarily lawyers, and they wanted to use constitutional law and international human rights law to improve access to food, and to make sure that Ugandan authorities are adhering to the right to food, which is an internationally recognised human right now.

I essentially collated all of the current legislations out there, internationally and then regionally, and then at a national constitutional level, into one document, so that it could be referred to instead of having to reference numerous different articles and different journals. This could be referred to in one statement or report that the charity could put out.

Why did you choose that particular project?

Because of the international aspect. It was hugely attractive to me because one of my other optional modules was Global Health and I was just wanted to learn as much as I could about public health across borders, outside of the typical UK case studies that you would be facing.

How did you find your interaction with the employer in Uganda?

It was difficult with me obviously not having the face to face element, but we set up Skype calls (Dr Marais facilitated a lot of those calls) and we were in regular email contact every week. There were times when there were powercuts out there, which meant that they didn’t have internet access. They actually tended to have them quite consistently on a certain day of the week, so very early on Dr Marais, my supervisor out in Uganda and I sat down at a Skype call and suggested we had a call every other Friday or an email conversation for updates. And that worked really well.

Do you have any advice for people working on international projects for this module?

I would probably recommend that at the very first stages they get a plan of communication in place. Don’t communicate ad-hoc – it’s easy to think that your supervisor is there just for you, but they have day jobs, they’re working on projects and are going out into the field and there are some days when the supervisors aren’t contactable.

How did you find your interaction with the university supervisor (in this case Dr Debbi Marais)?

Absolutely amazing, there was a completely open door policy, and if there was ever an issue and she wasn’t available right away, she made every effort to get a meeting in with me if not later that day, certainly in that week, to sit down and talk through it with me. There were a number of times where, because we’re not on campus everyday like some postgrad students are, we would have phone calls or Skype calls, and she was very open to that. So it was really helpful.

What did you get out of the Pathways to the Public Health Workplace module ?

I had the chance to actually work in a public health setting. I gained an awareness of what people think you are capable of when they realise that you have an MPH, and what they might ask you to do.

I used far more reference materials than I would have done otherwise, including reading a lot of journals on food security and global health journals. I learnt a lot about international health governance, and how laws or regulations passed by the United Nations and WHO can then drop down to regional level and impact everything from trade to economy to basic infrastructure, and then things like food security.

Naively, I had thought that food security was about how physically secure food is, like storage and transport, whereas it’s actually about health inequities and inequalities and the double burden of malnutrition. I just learnt so so much, and it’s probably the module that I would say that I learnt the most on.

Since finishing the Pathways module, have you experienced any other benefits?

I have always referred to that module in particular in job interviews when I have been asked to speak about my MPH, firstly because it was the only module I took that directly involved working (as in being employed). I didn’t just go to university and do a Masters straight after my undergrad, I actually went to university, did my Masters and also did a work placement with a really prominent NGO in Uganda, and produced a piece of work that could eventually lead onto be published.

It’s also been useful to speak about because it was just a really fascinating piece of work that I did in particular, working internationally. Saying that you have worked for somewhere like the Centre for Health and Human Rights and Development really engages people and it provides a great story and adds another side to you that I think employers find really really important. It does definitely give you an edge.

Assuming you pass, I think doing the module is a clear sign to a future employer or academic reviewing your application that you can work with other people. But more importantly it shows you can work with people from potentially a different sector to what you have worked in before, you can work in a team and project manage a team which involves an academic and someone who is potentially completely industry based (your employer /supervisor). And being able to manage a team that is a diverse as that when you are potentially relatively young university or when you are just new to public health is a great credit to you as an applicant.