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Thinking bigger: from biosciences to MSc Global Public Health and Policy

Emily McCann talks about why she moved from an undergraduate degree in science to delve into the underlying issues impacting public health on a global scale.

Changing direction

I was always a ‘science’ person at school; I guess I had that scientific mindset.

I did a biosciences degree at undergraduate level at Bath, which included a placement. During that placement, I worked for a pharmaceutical development company.

Although I learnt so much during my time there, the experience made me realise that drug development wasn’t for me, and I began to develop an interest in the social and economic factors behind public health.

I realised that I wanted to go beyond the biological and scientific reasons behind health and disease, and to try to tackle the issues that lead to them occurring. I also wanted to go further than just the UK level and find out more about the inequalities between different countries and explore that. I wanted to do more than science.

Discovering MSc Global Public Health and Policy at Bath

I looked at different master’s courses across the UK, but ultimately decided to continue studying at Bath when I looked into the content of the MSc Global Public Health and Policy course. I really felt it aligned with my aspirations to learn in a worldwide context as well, not just in the UK.

As the course is new, it’s being developed with the input of students studying it. I have found it to be really effective, as it means there are lots of discussions and presentations; the course is really interactive.

We cover one unit at a time, so that gives us the space and time to really delve into each theme. The tutors are all current experts in their fields, so you’re getting to learn contemporary knowledge.

Thinking on a bigger scale

A big challenge on this course is the ability to scale your thinking.

You have to start thinking about the whole chain of factors that lead to a health issue. For example, say a patient has lung cancer, on the surface it’s smoking that has caused the cancer, but what actually led the patient to smoke in the first place? What are the factors that contributed to this and how can we affect those?

The challenge is asking those big questions and addressing the root cause, not the symptoms.

There are plenty of opportunities to put theoretical skills into practice, including taking the Practice Track option. This allows you to work with a company or organisation on a project relevant to their business, so you can apply what you’ve learnt in a real-world situation.

My advice for future students

I’d really recommend this master’s to anyone who is interested in health on a global scale and making a difference when it comes to inequalities.

I could never have done so well and enjoyed the course as much as I did without the support of all staff and engaging lecturing. I found the course so amazing, and it could not have been taught by a more lovely group of lecturers.

Bath is such a beautiful and vibrant city, too. There’s so much going on. Obviously studying is a massive part of being at university, but Bath is also an amazing place to explore. It’s just a great place to be.

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