Alumni Profile: Britnae Purdy

Britnae Purdy outside LSHTM

Current job title and organisation

Associate Specialist, Global Health at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL)

Can you please tell us a bit about your current work/research?

I currently provide support for APHL’s global work boosting capacity in public health laboratories; my responsibilities are primarily in Mozambique, Kenya, and Vietnam. I also provide freelance communications support for the Global Healthcare Innovation Alliance Accelerator (GHIAA).

What course and year did you study at LSHTM?

I studied MSc Public Health by distance-learning, general stream. I finished my coursework in December 2020 and graduated in April 2021.

Why did you choose to study with LSHTM?

The flexibility of the distance-learning program paired with the reputation of LSHTM made it a no-brainer. When I decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in public health, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to take time off work to do so.  While studying with LSHTM I lived in two different states and worked four different jobs – having the ability to study long-distance and choose my course load each year was absolutely invaluable.

Did you have to overcome any challenges to study with us?

It’s never easy to work and study at the same time, and distance-learning can feel isolating at times. For my final year of study with LSHTM, I had meticulously planned to take time off work so that I could study on-campus for two blended learning modules and then focus exclusively on completing my research project. Public health had other plans – I had been in London for about two months when the US president started announcing immediate international travel restrictions in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Within 48 hours I was back in Washington D.C., absolutely reeling from the rate at which life had changed. Completing my degree during a pandemic was challenging in ways I couldn’t have expected and can’t even fully explain, and I’m sure many of my fellow alumni would say the same thing.

What were your favourite memories from your studies with us?

Two moments stand out. The first time I walked into the library at Keppel Street I almost cried. After four years of distance-learning, it felt like I was finally home. Later that year, while working on my project report back home during lockdown, I remember having this realization that the research I was doing could actually mean something to somebody. I had never considered myself a researcher before, and suddenly I was quite in love with it.

How has your LSHTM degree helped you in your career?

My LSHTM degree started helping me before I even graduated. In 2018, while working full-time at a university, I was tasked with carrying out a student body survey and report on the status of interpersonal and gender-based violence among students. I don’t think I would have felt confident enough to carry that out on my own if I hadn’t also been studying research skills, study design, and gender and health with LSHTM. Since graduating, I can tell that having a degree from a British university has helped me in working in global public health – I’m able to analyse things from a more globalized perspective than I think I would have if I had pursued this degree at a US-based institution.

Britnae Purdy next to the sea

What would you like to achieve in future?

Eventually, I would like to pursue a PhD in the study of gender and the history of medicine.

Do you have any advice for students/recent graduates?

Don’t narrow yourself down too much. I have often felt self-conscious about not having a “speciality,” even though I chose the LSHTM program in part for its general studies option. Public health is wide and endless and having a narrow picture of what your career needs to look like can blind you to some really unique opportunities.

Other comments

It’s going to be tough sometimes. You’re going to struggle with imposter syndrome and fatigue and overwhelm. It’s going to be worth it, but you need to prioritize your mental wellbeing throughout your studies.

Do you have any social handles (Twitter/Facebook Usernames) you would like us to use?

You can find me on Instagram @_quietkind or on LinkedIn.