Alumni Profile: Erin Stuckey25 October 2022 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
Can you please tell us a bit about your current work/research?
As a Senior Program Officer with the Polio team, I lead our contribution to eliminating polio in Sindh province, Pakistan – one of only two remaining countries in the world where wild poliovirus is still endemic. I work with the Pakistan government as well as Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners like UNICEF, WHO, CDC, Rotary and Gavi to make sure all the elements of the polio program are as strong as possible and that routine immunization coverage is improved in the highest risk areas of Karachi so that no poliovirus is circulating anywhere in Sindh province and no child gets paralyzed by the virus. This means I get to be involved in everything from strategy and monitoring for polio vaccination campaigns, to environmental surveillance, to advocacy, to supporting improvements in routine immunization coverage. Sometimes my job means I am in the role of a funder making investments on behalf of the Gates Foundation. Other times my role is to bring partners together to try to reach across silos to create a common vision and figure out how to work toward joint goals. An important part of my job is ensuring we are learning as we go and bringing evidence to our decision-making. In all cases, I see my role as trying to understand how and why health systems fail vulnerable communities and make sure these communities are directly involved in, and receive funding for, developing solutions to problems.
What course and year did you study at LSHTM?
MSc in Control of Infectious Diseases, 2009-2010
Did you have to overcome any challenges to study with us?
In general, I am very privileged to have a passport that makes it relatively easy to travel and study in the UK which means I have not had as many barriers to overcome as many students trying to access an education at LSHTM. However, I will mention in case it helps others returning to study after years of working, that I did feel my own self-doubt was a barrier. Going in it had been 5 years since I graduated college and I was nervous about the technical part of the course after several years in the working world away from academia. But once I got going the epi and stats and modelling classes were my favourites and I ended up writing a thesis on applied mathematical modelling of malaria. Sometimes we create all sorts of mental barriers that we can overcome by jumping in and trying! I’ll also never forget the challenge of being stranded in another country during the Iceland volcano eruption which kept me away from the first week of spring term and needing to teach myself differential equations to keep up with coursework (this was way before zoom classes).
What were your favourite memories from your studies with us?
I absolutely loved my time at LSHTM and felt like I was truly able to thrive there. I appreciated the setup of the term system and both the depth and breadth of the extremely high-quality coursework, and I met people who remain close friends and colleagues even today more than 12 years later! Fond memories include group work with classmates from all over the world, the impossibly steep lecture hall seating, pilgrimages to the John Snow, and reconnecting with everyone at ASTMH conferences.
How has your LSHTM degree helped you in your career?
My MSc thesis at LSHTM directly turned into a PhD position at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, which I would never have been connected with otherwise. LSHTM opened my eyes to so many possibilities and so many professional opportunities. The biology component of the Control of Infectious Diseases program was an incredibly helpful gap to fill as someone working in infectious diseases without a medical background. Diving deep into malaria epidemiology and transmission dynamics at LSHTM jump-started a passion for bridging the gap between research and program implementation that I used daily as a Program Officer in Malaria at the Gates foundation when trying to bring modelling to target product profile and program design. And I still use the epi and stats course knowledge when reviewing manuscripts and project proposals.
What would you like to achieve in future?
To continue contributing to eradicating polio and malaria of course!
Do you have any advice for students/recent graduates?
Get to know your classmates, even the ones you don’t think you have much in common with. Your classmates will be your greatest supporters and teachers. And the world is a very small place, you will absolutely run into people multiple times over the course of your career which is a beautiful thing.