Alumni Profile: Claire Chaumont28 November 2021 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?
After a master’s in international business and two years as a healthcare consultant in France, I went back to graduate school with the explicit aim to strengthen my understanding of health systems, health policy and health financing. At that time, I worked with hospitals all over France to help design their strategy and improve their processes to adapt to changing health needs. For example, I helped a small hospital in the North of France open a new ambulatory unit as part of its surgical ward. I supported a public hospital and a private clinic to rethink their operational process in the context of a merge, and I helped a French department develop its IRM and CT scan strategy.
I loved the work but felt I didn’t fully understand the underlying dynamics. I missed the big picture. That’s when I realised I needed to go back to school and get specialised training in public health.
How has your degree at LSHTM complemented your career?
My master’s gave me a good understanding of how health systems work, providing me with a solid conceptual framework and tools I still use to this day.
But the degree also set me on my current professional path in a more serendipitous way. Back in 2011, I was looking to move to Mexico for personal reasons and contacted the National Institute of Public Health (INSP). I didn’t know anyone back then, so I just sent a message through their website. Fortunately, one of the researchers, Dr Gustavo Nigenda, was a fellow alumnus from the Health Policy Planning and Financing programme. He invited me to do a summer research project. I ended up staying at the INSP for four years, during which I helped co-design and implement a landmark HIV costing analysis across 500 health facilities in five African countries. I eventually moved to Boston, where I completed a Doctorate in Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, then worked several years for an organisation called the END Fund, dedicated to ending neglected diseases, where I helped set up a new evidence, measurement and evaluation unit, focused on measurement, but also innovation and research to support the END Fund’s grant management teams.
Were the relationships you formed at LSHTM useful – in what way?
The friendships I formed at LSHTM were truly the highlight of my time there: I remain in contact with many fellow students and we have an active Whatsapp group. We had planned to organise a ten-year reunion in 2020, unfortunately postponed, although we were able to organise a Zoom meeting instead. Seeing them grow and thrive in their public health roles has been really inspiring, and I am very proud to know this group of people.
What do you hope to further achieve in your field in the future?
I am part of a new unit at WHO called Delivery for Impact. Our job is both challenging and inspiring. This aim is to help drive forward the organisation’s General Programme of Work 13 (i.e. its strategy), characterised by an ambitious aspiration called the Triple Billion targets: one billion people benefitting from universal health coverage, one billion people protected from health emergencies and one billion people enjoying better health and well-being by 2025.
This is the first time WHO has explicitly articulated such a measurement and policy strategy designed to improve its impact on health. Our job is to help operationalise it across the organisation by working with technical teams, regional offices and country offices to align processes, priorities and strategies around this shared goal and to support WHO Country Offices and local governments to implement the programmes needed to drive change.
The job combines two of my great interests: First, how to use evidence, both in terms of public health knowledge and data to ensure you focus on the right problem and provide the right solution. Second, how to implement change in practice.
I recently came across a quote by the Greek storyteller Aesop, which exquisitely summarises this idea: “Implementation beats oration”. In other words, a policy, regardless of how well designed it is, can only be as good as its roll-out. For this, having the right solution is essential but not enough: you also need the right governance structure, strong processes and organisation, and the right mix of people.
More generally, I envision we will see an increased focus on leadership, governance and implementation in the coming years to understand not just what needs to be done but how to do it in the best way possible. The pandemic has shown us that it is not always those with the strongest structures that deliver the best. I have written about leadership elsewhere and really think this is an important but overlooked aspect of public health.
I am incredibly excited to be part of this journey and able to contribute, even in a small way, to making public health programmes more impactful on people’s lives.
What advice do you have for current students?
I currently teach a class on fundamental concepts of public health for doctoral students at Harvard T.H. School of Public Health. The class is designed for students to learn about underlying concepts and frameworks in public health and understand how such concepts fundamentally influence their professional practices.
This is the first course students take at the school, so I often get asked for advice on how best to succeed during their programme. I always answer the same way: First, be curious: the school has a lot to offer beyond your core classes, so take time to explore and take it all in. But second, pace yourself! Graduate school can be stressful, and it’s important to rest and take time for oneself especially considering the global context. I think this also applies to students at LSHTM perfectly. It’s a great place to be!
Feature image courtesy of Claire Chaumont. Image shows Claire (centre) in 2011 with Karolina Tuomisto and Stephanie Kumpunen, two of her MSc friends.
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