Olivia is a Faculty of Science graduate who chose to cap off her undergraduate studies with a Master of Public Health. Since graduating in 2018, Olivia has been working in epidemiology.
Having recently finished up at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, Olivia has moved to Sydney to start a new role at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. While she says she will miss watching the Melbourne Demons play at the G every other week, she is excited for the opportunity to apply her skillset in a new area of public health.
Read her story below.
Epidemiology combines everything I enjoyed studying: numbers, biology, social science and health.
I would say study what you’re interested in as an undergraduate. Whether it be physiology, immunology, genetics, psychology, sociology, anything! Then learn how epidemiology can be applied to that field, among all the others.
We use diverse data to understand why some people are at higher risk of disease or health outcomes than others. We can then use this information to modify risk factors or introduce interventions. Epidemiology continues to excite me because its principles can be applied to almost any health outcome imaginable. Having just moved from influenza to emerging trends in drug use, I can attest to this!
I felt that the MPH was a good way to apply what I had learned in my undergraduate degree about infection and disease to population health. To me that felt more tangible. From my BSc (Hons) I gained [continually] relevant skills in communicating results to a broader audience. Every day at work I see what I learned about in my MPH in action—from epidemiology and biostatistics to social determinants of health, health economics and health management.
My job is a combination of research and regular reporting of trends to various stakeholders. There’s usually some form of report writing or presentation preparation. Also, a lot of data cleaning and analysis and often some level of frustration while writing the code to do so.
Olivia also mentors a current MPH student through the University of Melbourne’s MSPGH Mentoring Program.
Having done 6 years of study, what came after graduation was daunting to me. Not only finding a job, but how and who to network with, what the workplace would be like, what I would do day-to-day, what would be expected of me. So I hope I’ve helped alleviate similar apprehensions for my mentee.
I am fortunate that both my workplaces have had a good representation of women. I’m also very grateful to have had the mentorship of two strong-minded female epidemiologists. However, I would like to see an increase in representation of women in higher management roles.