Alumni Profile: Navpreet Singh

Navpreet Singh (MSc Public Health – Health Promotion, 2015) works as an Associate Director in Vaccine Policy and Communications for Merck Sharp & Dohme (UK) Limited. In this blog, she shares her career focusing on vaccine policy, how COVID-19 has ‘shaken things up’ and her memories of LSHTM.
Navpreet Singh

Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?

I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in public health, and I specialised in health promotion during my bachelor’s at Western University in Canada. Whilst researching the best schools across the globe, it was a no brainer that LSHTM stood out as a leader in public health and would be the best choice. Everyone I know who works in global health always reference LSHTM as a key success factor in their career!

How has your degree at LSHTM complemented your career?

LSHTM was a unique place. It felt like everyone around me were the most passionate people I’d ever met, and they all wanted to pursue a career in improving and saving lives. That passion from colleagues, professors and the many initiatives and Centres that existed within the School really drove me to ensure everything I did in my career after LSHTM reflected that passion. The professors’ real-world experience and their application of research into health policy allowed me to be in the position I am today at MSD, where I work on vaccine policy whilst having that in-depth understanding of public health.

It was just as important to understand the different roles and institutions that my classmates and professors were a part of as it was to focus on my own studies. Having recently graduated with my Bachelors, understanding the different paths people had taken to end up at LSHTM was critical for me. It helped me understand that there isn’t just one traditional way of impacting public health. I didn’t need to be a researcher or epidemiologist to make a difference.

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

The relationships at LSHTM were critical in understanding the numerous career paths that existed and allowed for ongoing dialogues with colleagues you will want to bump into in the future. I realised very quickly how important the LSHTM alumni network would be when I started seeing my classmate’s names pop up on various public health events and platforms across the globe!

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

Over the past six years since graduating from the School, I have pursued a career in policy and communications. Different to some, I jumped into the pharmaceutical industry and was curious about how they played a role in public health. Very quickly I realised that the industry has a great wealth of knowledge and resource that can be integral in helping governments pursue public health goals. I started my career with AstraZeneca working for a sustainability project called Healthy Heart Africa that looked to provide hypertension treatments in Kenya and Ethiopia, where there had been an increase in heart disease and hypertension due to urbanisation.

My role included engaging with global health stakeholders to secure sustainable funding for healthcare workers’ education in delivering the programme on the ground and working with our teams in the country to develop materials to help with awareness of hypertension within communities. It was really an eye-opener as to what a real public-private partnership could look like, and it piqued my interest in how the industry can work better with global health bodies.

With my background in health promotion and health communications, I then moved on to pursue a role in a communications agency working on a number of national and international campaigns, focusing on STI awareness amongst young people and vaccination. This gave me the skills to project manage several health marketing campaigns and developed my interest in working with vaccines.

I am now back working specifically on vaccination policy and communications. The role has included working with national stakeholders in the UK, including the Department for Health, NHS and Public Health England, on how the industry can support in improving vaccination rates across eligible populations.

How has COVID-19 affected your work?

Working in vaccines policy and communications and working in the industry, COVID-19 has really shaken things up. We are now seeing more attention on vaccines as they become part of everyday discussions, and companies developing the vaccines becoming household names for the first time.

For me, it’s been an interesting opportunity to understand how the public may seek to become more involved in national decisions on vaccination policy. Both in the future and in regards as to how government and national health bodies will work with the industry moving forward, considering the close collaboration we have seen during COVID-19.

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

I hope that as I continue to build my experience in vaccine policy and work in the industry, I can take this forward to build better relationships between global health institutions and the private sector. As we’ve seen with COVID-19, working collectively with the industry in the development and roll-out of vaccines has been integral in responding to the pandemic and can bring benefits for current and future vaccination programmes.

What advice do you have for current students?

Take advantage of the fantastic experience of colleagues and professors whilst you are there. It is second to none, and those networks will be integral as you move forward.

Do you have any standout memories from LSHTM?

I used to bartend at The Pump Handle Bar, which was always a fun experience, especially for those who needed to blow off some steam. But I will always remember serving a beer to Professor Peter Piot – a memory that I always slip into conversations with public health colleagues when I can!

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