Long overdue: Class of 1984 virtual reunion

Screen shot of reuniting virtually: from left to right:Top row: Tom Peterman, You, John Robson, Hillevi Aro  (on behalf of Seppo Aro), Marcello Vettorazzi. Middle row: Jane Eminson, Isabel Izarzugaza, Lillian Mulder (on behalf of Daan Mulder), David Brown, Carol Bower. Bottom row: Carmen Navarro Sanchez, Conrad Shamlaye, Manolis Kogevinas, Seppo Koskinen, Paul McKeigue

Almost 40 years have passed since the Epidemiology Class of 1984 graduated from LSHTM, but their excitement for reconnecting and sharing their stories has stood the test of time.

Carol Bower and Jane Eminson thought there was no better way to celebrate ‘40 years since they started their amazing year at LSHTM’ than a virtual reunion. They began their search on the internet, followed by reaching out to the Alumni Office to help them find any alumni who had slipped between the cracks.

What resulted, was a heartwarming and delightful reunion, filled with laughter and fond memories, even though there were thousands of miles and several time zones between everyone. Each person discussed their favourite moments studying at LSHTM, how it impacted their careers, where they’ve travelled, and how they’ve started families or what new interests they’ve found along the way.

Of the 27 students who started this course 40 years ago, Jane and Carol were in touch with 21 alumni; 14 took part in the reunion, and 17 submitted a written update on their lives. Sadly, four had passed away, but the partners of two took part in the reunion and reveled in their shared memories. Only four students were uncontactable.

Here are some updates from our wonderful class of 1984, MSc Epidemiology.

Jane Eminson (Pattison in 1983/4) (England)

'After the amazing year at LSHTM, I spent a few years in research, mostly using routinely collected data, before moving into health services management. That felt much more like home so I carried on, ending up as a Health Authority Chief Executive. Unconvinced by the relentless reorganisations and with two young children, I moved into consultancy in 2001 and then specialised in peer review visits, working with clinical teams to review standards for a range of health services. We set up the first organisation with UKAS (ie. internationally recognised) accreditation for review of health services (now shut down - but it was very effective at improving quality while it lasted).

The LSHTM course was just incredible. It felt like my brain was being stretched and challenged in ways it had never been before. Thanks so much to all the tutors and to my colleagues for this experience. The skills and understanding I gained have been used throughout my career. (Personally, I think all health service managers would benefit from learning epidemiology.) My notes and the little books have come out time and time again, most recently to help my daughter through her public health degree at the Karolinska Institutet. Perhaps most important of all was the confidence that the course gave me – definitely a life-changing experience.'

Carol Bower (Australia)

'On return home to Western Australia in 1984, I resumed my two previous positions: running the state’s birth defects register in the Health Department; and as a research fellow in a university-affiliated research institute. I resigned from the former in 2016 and the latter at the end of 2021! I have very fond memories of our year at the School – the students, the staff, the content – and the wisdom of all three. I frequently drew on those little green and yellow typed statistics books John Osborne used to teach us the basics.  I also frequently remind myself of Geoffrey Rose’s statement that good epidemiologists should be critical and cautious, but not paralysed. I have found this to be very helpful in many situations, for example when public health issues need to be considered in the face of imperfect or incomplete information. I have now moved to Sydney to be close to my children and grandchildren. While I continue some research and mentoring activities in a voluntary capacity, I am very glad to be free of grant-writing and administration and feel very blessed to have my lovely family around me at this stage of my life.'

Jane adds: 'With typical modesty, Carol has not mentioned that she has finally accepted being made a Companion of Australia, having been reassured that this is a team award and nothing at all to do with her personal achievements.'

Manolis Kogevinas (Greece / Spain)

'The course shaped my professional career. I was coming from a very narrow obsolete clinical perception of health and disease, and the world opened up to me listening to Abel-Smith. Marmot, Val and obviously G Rose. I think we have been a very lucky group to have been taught by Rose. Also the world opened up by meeting all of you and enriching very much my cultural values by being in an international environment of really nice and very interesting people.

In Barcelona we established, and I have been one of the directors of, a magnificent (OK, I am biased) centre on global health called ISGlobal working on environment/climate, NCDs and infections. We work both in high income countries and low resource settings, mostly in Africa and South America. In the last few years, I have left admin work at the centre and happily involved only with my research group and, at a wider scale, promoting international coordination of centres working on environment, climate and health.'

Seppo Koskinen (Finland)

'Since 1995 I have been working at the National Public Health Institute (nowadays Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare) where I was nominated as a Research Professor in 2010. My work has mainly focused on inequities in health, different aspects of functional ability in the population and its subgroups, and surveillance of health and welfare in the general population as well as different minority groups – planning and making use of both health examination surveys and questionnaire surveys as well as register data. I have very good memories of the time at LSHTM! The teachers and the fellow students were great people, and living abroad was a wonderful new experience. I learned a lot, and it was important to observe that the foreign gurus (such as Geoffrey Rose and Michael Marmot), while being internationally top experts, were also only human beings with whom you could discuss interesting topics on a fairly even level.'

M Isabel Izarzugaza (Spain)

'My memories about the year at the LSHTM are extraordinary. I was an oncologist, a clinician, knowing that I didn’t know enough epidemiology to understand the disease. It was hard for me to come back to study as a student. Attending lectures, so good as the first one given by Prof. Rose, or so controversial as those from Val Beral. Or understanding, at last, the malaria disease. Statistics sometimes made me crazy! Peter Smith was the tutor for Daan and me, they both helped me a lot. Michel Coleman, although not my tutor, also helped very much in special moments. I liked very much the international environment of the School and still remember different groups of scholars by nationalities.'

Edith Lau (Hong Kong)

'The year 1983 was the best year of my life. I loved the school, you guys, the world experts who taught us, and London herself. After returning to Hong Kong, I was back at my post as lecturer in Community Medicine in the Chinese University. I embarked on a long journey and ended up setting up the School of Public Health there, as well as the Hong Kong Osteoporosis Center. I wanted to dip my toe into the private sector so I left the university in 2004. I am now running a large community based clinical trial centre in Hong Kong.

I thank you and the School for giving me the inspiration and expertise to develop my career…. I think I will try to not retire…. ever!'

Paul McKeigue (Scotland)

'I worked at UCL on cardiovascular disease and diabetes, focusing on trying to understand ethnic differences. In 1990 I moved to LSHTM where for a couple of years I was the coordinator of the MSc Epidemiology course. Geoffrey Rose retired and died soon afterwards. For me, one of the most enduring memories of the course was his introductory lectures. His words still ring in my head that “you can’t exclude the explanation you haven’t considered”, and that an epidemiologist “must have dirty hands and a clean mind” (or was it the other way round?)'

Bentson McFarland (USA)

'My main contribution to public health has been persuading a few people to obtain COVID vaccinations. I am grateful that I can still climb stairs and shuffle about the neighbourhood. I boasted to a friend that I was being my own doctor and had successfully treated my hypertension with the ABCD diet – no alcohol, no bakery, no caffeine, no dairy. The friend replied: “I would get another doctor”. '

Hillevi Aro, wife of the late Seppo Aro (Finland)

'I was asked to represent my late husband Seppo Aro in the reunion of LSHTM 1983-84. Sadly, Seppo was not allowed to live and see this day, as he died in 1997. The 1983-84 year in London was a great adventure for the whole family. Seppo enjoyed his course, I also remember many joyful gatherings with your group, and weekends were fulfilled with tourism, our seven and two year old sons being especially interested in castles. The course had an important impact on Seppo's later research orientation and career. He became more fully aware of the good possibilities of register-based studies in Finland and decided to direct future research in them. He started to develop health services research first in association with our National Board of Health and when the unit became established in the National Public Health Institute, he was appointed research professor and head of that unit. It became a central research and postgraduate centre for health services research in our country. In 1993-94 we had another great adventure as a family abroad while Seppo was working at RAND and UCLA. Life was smiling, but soon after our return to Finland Seppo was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, and after three years of fight against the disease he died in spring 1997.'

Edith Lau Ming and Cindy Mulrow
Edith Lau Ming Chu and Cindy Mulrow during their studies.
Carol Bower and Jane Eminson
Carol Bower and Jane Eminson during their studies
Alumni class trip Oxford
The whole class on a trip to Oxford