From medic to health minister – Karina’s story6 February 2024 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine https://lshtm.ac.uk/themes/custom/lshtm/images/lshtm-logo-black.png
Karina Rando is the Minister of Public Health in Uruguay. She worked as a medical doctor in anaesthesiology and liver transplant surgery in her home country before coming to London to study the MSc Public Health – Health Economics stream in 2017. In this blog, she describes how her time at LSHTM gave her practical professional tools, and friends for life.
Why did you pursue a career in public health?
When I was a little girl, I dreamed that everyone would have enough food. I was very worried about famine and the suffering of people, especially children. As a child I enjoyed playing with maps, and I would wonder if there was a way to feed the world. I thought that if every family in the world gave something to eat, and every government sent one aeroplane to the population that was hungry, there would no longer be hunger; the whole world could be fed.
When I grew up, I decided to study medicine but deep inside I knew I wanted to work with people all over the world, not only medical patients. I loved being a doctor but there came a time when I decided to do what I really wanted to do in life. My background is mainly clinical, and I wanted to expand my knowledge in other areas, thinking on a more global scale about the health of the general population. That’s why I decided to explore public health - something bigger that made me see things from another point of view.
Why did you choose to study at LSHTM?
Uruguay doesn’t have a public health university to do a master's in public health so I was looking in other parts of the world. I searched the web for the best universities in public health, and everywhere I looked, I saw LSHTM come up. I also chose LSHTM because London is a wonderful city to study in. There are lovely cafes and places where you can interact with people from all over the world; it’s very cosmopolitan.
How have your studies helped you in your work?
As Minister of Public Health in Uruguay, I have to decide the priorities for my country. LSHTM taught me that there is no health without mental health. I have applied that in government now and it is one of our priorities.
At LSHTM I learnt many skills that are useful for my current job, particularly economic evaluation and public health policy.
There are not enough resources for health anywhere – you always need more. We have economic constraints, so we need to be rational about how we use state money for the health of the population. Through my studies on economic evaluation, I learnt how to decide which treatment is going to give more health benefits to the whole population and not to just one patient.
Decisions around policies in public health are always a challenge. You need to have an overview of all the topics from different points of view. It’s important for me as a Minister of Public Health to know how to do that, and I learnt it at LSHTM.
Tell us about some of your happiest memories from your time at LSHTM?
Something I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life are the friendships I made at LSHTM, with people from all over the world – Iran, Pakistan, Japan, India, Spain, the UK. It’s wonderful to have these friends for the rest of my life.
As I was older (some of the other students could have been my son or daughter), we had a special relationship. For example, they would talk to me about their parents, and ask me for advice. One of my favourite memories was when my friends held a leaving party for me. We went to a Spanish restaurant where we had a wonderful dinner. We danced until 2am and ate typical Galician dishes. It was fantastic.
I will always remember the first time I went to study in the library. It felt like I was in the middle of a movie – it was wonderful. The library is magical and has so much history. It’s a very inspiring place to study in.
In LSHTM I always felt the staff were taking care of me. It was like a family. I never felt alone. For example, I fractured my hand and had to go to hospital for surgery. The staff at the School were very concerned about me. They contacted me every day and asked me how I was and gave me extra time for my assessments. They were always with me in my difficult moments, which was important.
What advice do you have for anyone considering studying at LSHTM?
LSHTM is so inspiring. It is excellent at an academic level but you have to make a huge effort. It’s not going to be easy; it’s going to be hard. But it’s going to be good. It’s probably going to be one of the best things you can do in your life.
My advice is you have to take the risk or lose the chance. I will always remember the time I spent at LSHTM as some of the best years of my life.