Alumni Profile: Hiral Shah

Hiral Shah (MSc Public Health - Health Economics, 2014) works as a Senior Policy Analyst in Global Health Economics at the Center for Global Development. He is also a Visiting Researcher at the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, School of Public Health, Imperial College London. Here he shares his memories from LSHTM, his achievements since leaving, and five top tips for students!
Hiral Shah

Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?

Prior to studying at LSHTM, I had no clue about what public health, global health or health economics meant. I definitely had not even heard of LSHTM, but I was interested in healthcare and helping people, so I started researching MScs in Healthcare. After a lot of research, I realised that the MSc Public Health course fitted my expectations and the name ‘LSHTM’ kept popping up whilst networking with healthcare professionals.

What really motivated me to apply was the fact it was in the top three universities globally for postgraduate degrees in global health (alongside Harvard and Johns Hopkins) and it was right on my doorstep in London.

How has your degree at LSHTM complemented your career?

LSHTM has not complemented my career; it kickstarted my career in global health and health economics. In fact, it’s because of LSHTM that I have a strong foundation of knowledge and skills relevant to global health which are still being applied today in my work. In addition, I constantly work with people who are also alumni at LSHTM which is a wonderful connection and community to be part of.

Were the relationships you formed at LSHTM useful – in what way?

In my cohort, we had over 80 nationalities represented. We had so much fun exploring London, nights out, house parties, studying together, celebrating different festivals, learning about each other’s cultures, food etc. It was such a diverse and fun cohort to be part of and all the relationships I made are still active today.

Whenever I am travelling abroad and I know someone from my class is in that country, I will always reach out and try to meet them for dinner or drinks (and they do the same when coming to London). I value these relationships even more now as you never know when you might end up collaborating with an old friend from LSHTM! Plus, who doesn’t like catching up with old friends, reminiscing and finding out more about what colleagues are doing?

Please summarise your achievements over the years and how you feel about them?

Since leaving LSHTM in 2014, I’ve worked in numerous places (India, Singapore, London, Thailand to name a few) with many different institutions, (Imperial, LSHTM, Yale University, Harvard University, Indian School of Business, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) all on global health economics and infectious diseases. I have presented at numerous conferences, published in journals, been awarded funding and been so lucky to do what I love and be paid for it. I essentially work at both the global, international and national level, and I love what I do.

I also completed a PhD from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Imperial College London and have recently joined the Center for Global Development as a Senior Policy Analyst working in global health economics.

How has COVID-19 affected your work?

My workload has increased! Being a health economist who specialises in infectious disease during the pandemic has led to a lot of work opportunities and interesting projects. The pandemic is a difficult time for everyone and obviously working at home is the new norm, but everything I learnt in my MSc is now being applied to COVID-19.

What do you hope to further achieve in your field in the future?

I want to carry on building my own portfolio of work focussed on global health economics, cost-effectiveness analysis, priority setting, environment, health, and sustainability. I want to improve the process and methods involved in evidence-based policy and be a global champion for global health economics and sustainability.

Do you have any stand out memories from LSHTM?

My MSc was one of the best years of my life so far. There are too many memories with friends (you know who you are), but some highlights include the Christmas party in the Refectory, all the house parties, drinks at Birkbeck bar, the hikes and holidays, the two-hour lunches, the limited legroom in the John Snow Lecture Theatre, and the final end of year ball. Meeting and having conversations on global health topics with leaders such as Prof Peter Piot (Director of LSHTM), President John Kufuor (Former President of Ghana), Prof Richard Horton (Editor-In-Chief of the Lancet) and Dr Margaret Chan (Former Director General of the WHO), all whilst being an MSc student was a major highlight for me.

Academically, Prof Kara Hanson delivering the Introduction to Health Economics or Prof Alec Miners delivering the Economic Evaluation lectures were also highlights as these were key topics that I was super interested in! Plus publishing my MSc Thesis in a journal was a great milestone.

What advice do you have for current students?

  1. Try and get to know everyone both within your course and outside your course, you are joining a prestigious community and the more connections you make in your year of study, the more it will help you down the line.
  2. Make sure you select a mixture of courses that stimulate your interests but also give you research, analytical and methodological skills.
  3. Speak to the tutors, professors and other teaching staff. They are always willing to talk to interested and engaged students, but do some reading beforehand and don’t go in blind without knowing what their research is focussed on.
  4. Work hard on your MSc dissertation so you get a good grade and so you can publish it. This really embeds the standard of research that is expected from LSHTM alumni, and the standard for your career. You should aim to uphold this going forward after your MSc. Plus, you become a published author, which goes down in history forever!
  5. Have fun! The culture on campus was super cool where you constantly learn and everyone is nice, friendly, has a common interest and wants to learn. Talk to people, go out for drinks or dinner, attend after school and lunchtime seminars and network, network, network! But work hard on the coursework, exams and dissertation too!

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