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Stephen McCall (graduated 2019), Sophia Lowes (graduated 2016) and Jay Krishnan (graduated 2018)

Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and go on to careers in many different sectors. We spoke to three alumni to find out about their careers in academia, industry, and a charity.

STEPHEN MCCALL - Graduated in July 2019

Courses: MSc in Global Health Science, followed by a DPhil in Population Health

Thesis topic: Risk factors for maternal mortality at advanced maternal age (MSc); Severe complications of pregnancy using international surveillance systems (DPhil). Supervised by: Professor Marian Knight and Professor Jenny Kurinczuk.

I stayed on at Oxford Population Health after completing my DPhil for a post-doctoral position with Professor Ed Juszczak (now at the University of Nottingham) and Dr Chris Gale (Imperial College London). This was a fantastic year where I transitioned into clinical trial methodology. During my post-doc, I was part of a large international team that extended the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Statement for trials that use routine data. This advises researchers of the essential items they should consider when reporting the results of a randomised controlled trial in any journal (published in The BMJ).

After my post-doc, I joined the American University of Beirut as an Assistant Professor in Public Health Practice, where I work currently. My role is to provide statistical and epidemiological expertise to the Faculty of Health Sciences. I am the principal investigator on small grants or part of a larger team that applies for funding and implements the awarded studies.

Since arriving in Lebanon, I have been involved in many projects related to sustainable development, establishing longitudinal studies in the Arab region, maternal health, and vulnerable populations such as refugees. One of these studies involves measuring the vulnerabilities of older Syrian refugees in Lebanon and assessing whether these change over time with the dynamic circumstances of Lebanon. I also recently became an academic editor at PLOS Global Public Health, and it has been exciting to see the other side of peer review.

My time at Oxford Population Health equipped me with epidemiological and statistical expertise, which I now use daily. In addition, my DPhil had an international focus, so provided valuable skills and knowledge about different health systems and cross-cultural working.

Whilst at Oxford Population Health, I enjoyed being a tutor on the MSc in Global Health Science and Epidemiology course with Professor Robert Clarke. This was a good introduction to my current teaching activities, which include teaching global health to medical students, co-ordinating a course on non-communicable diseases for the Master’s in Public Health, and supervising final year master’s students.

Favourite memories of Oxford Population Health: The annual symposium was always a highlight, as it was a great way to learn about what everyone else in the Department was working on. I also received a supplementary scholarship from the Medical Research Council to undertake three months of research in Paris during the final year of my DPhil, which was a splendid experience.

Jay Krishnan - Graduated in June 2018

Course: MSc in Global Health Science (now the MSc in Global Health Science & Epidemiology).

Thesis topic: Fresh fruit consumption & early markers of carotid atherosclerosis. Supervised by: Professor Huaidong Du, Dr Jennifer Carter, and Dr Matthew Arnold.

When I left Oxford, I did not have a clear plan. But I knew I wanted to contribute to solving real-world challenges and was absolutely fascinated by emerging technologies. I joined IBM Watson Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a Marketing Manager for artificial intelligence solutions. I lead on strategy and execution for a range of health-related products, including those focused on clinical decision support, clinical trial matching, genomic interpretation, and radiology imaging systems. However, IBM also offers various channels for its employees to try their hand at inventing and I naturally gravitated to this opportunity. Many of my inventions draw heavily on my training from Oxford Population Health, for instance in using regression models, controlling for bias, and correcting for multiple hypothesis testing. By July 2020, I was leading two invention teams and had contributed to 24 patent disclosures.

During this time, however, I quickly realised that big changes in technology depend not only on their utility, but on how they would be adopted by society and fit within our evolving legal frameworks. So in autumn 2020, I enrolled as a law student at UC Berkeley School of Law, where I am currently. My course is focused on technology transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and intellectual property law. Next summer, I will work as a clerk at the international law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell (New York City) where I intend to work after graduation.

This year, I also launched Krishnan Ventures, since investing is a way that I can cast my vote on what I believe should be the future of technology. This will focus on early-stage companies working in the fields of automation and data analytics.

Favourite memories of Oxford Population Health: The privilege to be learning from luminaries in the field. For example, it was beyond inspiring to learn about meta-analysis from Sir Richard Peto - literally one of the founders of meta-analysis.

Sophia Lowes- Graduated in September 2016

Course: MSc in Global Health Science

Thesis topic: Tuberculosis as a risk factor for subsequent adverse respiratory outcomes - Evidence from the China Kadoorie Biobank. Supervised by: Professor Hubert Lam.

After graduating from my master’s, I went straight into an Operations Coordinator role at the Royal Society for Public Health. This involved organising public health training programmes, developing and maintaining e-learning courses, and supporting on accreditation of other organisations’ work. However, this role didn’t use the knowledge and skills I had gained in my MSc as much as I would have liked.

So a year later, I moved to Cancer Research UK (CRUK) as a Health Information Officer. My job was to turn peer-reviewed scientific research into accessible, inspiring, evidence-based information for the public and key professionals on the prevention and early diagnosis of cancer. In 2018, I was promoted to Health Information Manager, specialising in supporting policy work at CRUK. More recently I have supported our work in corporate partnerships, including acting as an expert advisor on the Tesco Health Charity Partnership which involves CRUK, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK. I will soon be taking on a Senior Manager role in the Cancer Intelligence team, leading a team to develop and communicate analysis and statistics on cancer.

The skills I developed at Oxford Population Health are crucial for my role. For instance, I need to critically appraise new journal articles about cancer research to help develop CRUK’s position on the current evidence base. It’s vital that I can understand if something really does cause cancer or whether it’s a myth, so we can give the public appropriate information.

I really like the fact that I work across lots of different projects, either writing about cancer, talking about it, or trying to influence other people on evidence. Occasionally I also get to appear on the news if there are media stories about cancer. A downside is that you’ve got to be ready to respond if something comes up in the news or something changes on a project. Some days you just have to ditch everything you had planned, so you’ve got to work well under pressure and be able to respond to changing circumstances.

Favourite memories of Oxford Population Health: I particularly enjoyed the chance to do some in-depth research as part of my dissertation, and meeting lots of high-profile researchers during the masterclasses.