Alumni Profile: Dr Natalie Prevatt19 January 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?
I wanted to work in a culturally different setting that provided exciting unexpected challenges and I knew my medical training in the UK had not prepared me for that, and that LSHTM could.
Were the relationships you formed at LSHTM useful – in what way?
When I worked in The Solomon Islands many years ago I learnt the term ‘Wantok’ meaning people with the same tribal language (i.e. one talk) who think of each other as family, to be supported and in turn, used for assistance… I think Wantok is a good analogy for LSHTM Alumni!
Just before the pandemic I went to Palau and travelled through some of the other Pacific Islands. I’m relearning Pidgin because I want to go back and work with patients in that region – offers welcome! You see, I’m still networking now!
Please summarise your achievements over the years and how your time at LSHTM complemented your career?
My time at LSHTM made my career, both in terms of the knowledge gained and the connections made. A post came up at the end of my DTMH to do some work on a malaria trial and I went straight from the DTMH to work in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda as the assistant and later clinical coordinator on the now famous FEAST (Fluid Expansion As Supportive Therapy) trial. This trial showed paediatricians globally that the WHO guidelines for using bolus fluids to treat shock in children were dangerously flawed, and it showed me the power that well conducted research yields. After spending time pushing the results into practice I wrote the Emergency Triage and Treatment (ETAT+) course to be accessed freely online through the UK RCPCH and Kenya paediatric associations. I won a prize for a low resource setting nursing motivation package and came to sit on the RCPCH International Child Health group (ICHG). I now lead the ICHG’s medical student initiatives.
My contacts at the school brought me back to LSHTM, to Professor Behrens, and in 2015 I wrote a proposal for and took up post as LSHTM’s first Travel Medicine clinical fellow and started to concentrate on the needs of children travelling out and back into the UK. I gained my Travel Medicine Certificate and completed training in paediatric infectious diseases. I now run the only dedicated paediatric travel medicine clinic in the NHS. There is a huge demand for advice and so I have recently launched a private online service too. Years later, Professor Behrens and I are currently updating our Paediatric Vaccines European book chapter.
I am pleased to lecture at LSHTM every year on both the child health module of the DTMH and the travel medicine short course, if the pandemic allows me to give my lectures in the building face to face this year I will be beaming. It always feels like coming home.
What do you hope to further achieve in your field in the future?
I am a Patron of Legs for Africa. We help students and overseas staff to transport artificial limbs to African hospitals in their free baggage allowance. I hope people will check their website before travelling after they have their COVID-19 vaccine.
I’ve been elected to the Paediatric council of the International Society of Travel Medicine and I hope to improve the Paediatric Travel Medicine evidence base and to safely bring travel experiences to people with chronic diseases, terminal illnesses or disabilities that would have previously prevented travel. I wrote the PENTA HIV travel guidance, for example. I’m so proud to work in such a niche speciality and LSHTM gave me that opportunity the minute I walked through the gilded doors.
How has COVID-19 affected your work?
COVID-19 has taken over my NHS work. As the ID lead for my hospital, I was involved in national meetings, distributing lessons locally, and trying to make safe decisions in the interim. We had some children with PIMS TS early on and we’ve undergone a restructuring of central London services ready for the ‘second wave’ so that we are now a busy ‘paediatric hub’. We are expecting to see more children who need an inpatient stay and are taking part in the RECOVERY trial.
As soon as the situation is stable and I have been vaccinated I will be travelling for work and recreation! As an adult that’s crucial. It is important to remember though that children have a much lower COVID-19 disease burden and so routine vaccinations and prevention of other travel related diseases remain just as much of a priority for them.
What advice do you have for current students?
Embrace the teaching, which is second to none, and the experience of being taught by people who actually care about you and your career. No matter where you are from, no one is invisible at LSHTM.
Network and keep in touch. It’s a privilege to have like-minded colleagues and friends all over the world, who as an added bonus, often turn out to be experts in their respective fields!
Do you have any stand out memories from LSHTM?
My fellow student, Dr Alison Cowan and I arranged the end of DTMH party celebrating our leader, Dr Tom Doherty, who is an unparalleled teacher. We made him a tree decorated with notes from all of his students and as we presented it on stage we looked out over a sea of tropical ailments – our fellow students dressed as worms, buboes, rats and tsetse flies.
**To note – LSHTM students, staff and alumni travelling with children get a 10% discount on telephone consults for advice on travel planning and on children and babies pre-prepared travel boxes at Childrenstraveldoc.com.
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