Meet the 2022/23 MARCH Student Liaison Officers

At the start of the academic year, we were delighted to appoint a new cohort of MARCH Student Liaison Officers (SLOs).

Our MSc Student Liaison Officers (SLOs) are a vital part of the MARCH community. Each year they bring fresh ideas, vision and focus to help us connect with the student body and shape our work. They are the next generation of health leaders.

We asked some of the group what attracted them to LSHTM, their plans for the year and their hopes for the future.
MARCH Student Liaison Officers (left to right): (top) Juliette and Donya, (bottom) Jiahui and Clarissa

What drew you to studying at LSHTM?

Clarissa Battaglino (CB), MSc Public Health – Health Promotion stream: It has always been my dream to explore my passion in women’s health and to tackle challenges such as preconception care and adverse birth outcomes. After finishing the Diploma in Tropical Nursing in 2019 and volunteering in Peru and Bangladesh as a midwife, my interest has shifted towards global health. I am excited to be part of the MSc Public Health and committed to the course.

Donya Zarrinnegar (DZ), MSc Public Health: In the spring of 2022, I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology and Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. I was drawn to LSHTM’s MSc Public Health program for its rich selection of multidisciplinary modules examining public health on a global level. The MARCH Centre was a significant driver in my application to LSHTM as I wanted to bridge my clinical experiences working with refugees and immigrants during my undergraduate degree with robust qualitative and quantitative research on sexual and reproductive health in settings of humanitarian crises. 

Juliette Cavaye (JC), MSc Epidemiology: LSHTM attracts so many people from all over the world to come and study here. This means that my classmates are from so many different backgrounds and professional areas, allowing me to learn from such a diverse group of people with different skillsets. As well as this, there are so many extra opportunities for learning outside of my usual modules, such as the global health lecture series and events run by the different centres such as MARCH.

Jiahui (Behati) Zhao (JZ), MSc Reproductive and Sexual Health Research: My interest in reproductive and women’s health sparked while I was studying evolutionary anthropology during my undergraduate degree. I was eager to build on this knowledge and contribute to improving women's health and reproductive rights in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) so applied for the MSc Reproductive & Sexual Health Research at LSHTM.

What do you hope to research through your summer project?

CB: My main interest is in preconception health as a milestone to overcome complications in pregnancy and to prepare women in reproductive age to start a healthy pregnancy. Let’s prevent and not cure!

DZ: I am interested in research intersecting maternal and adolescent health, gender-based violence and humanitarian crises ⁠— including chronic climate change, natural disasters, conflict zones and forced displacement. I hope to examine the global mobilisation of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) resources in climate disaster responses, focusing on women and children within LMICs who are disproportionately impacted. I am aiming to strengthen my systematic literature review and meta-analysis skillset for rigorous evidence appraisal and data analysis. 

JC: I am hoping to explore the association of heat illness symptoms with maternal heat strain and fetal strain in pregnant subsistence farmers in The Gambia.

JZ: I have a broad interest in reproductive health in general, including reproductive rights, family planning, abortion, infertility, modern contraception methods and neonatal care.

As a Student Liaison Officer (SLO), what activities are you working on?

CB: To promote preconception care, I will be supporting MARCH’s activities marking ‘International Day of the Midwife’ on 5 May. I will bring voices from the midwifery world to discuss the challenges they are facing in hospitals especially during the first antenatal appointment.

DZ: As a SLO for the climate theme, I am keen to conduct and promote research on the impacts of rising climate disasters on maternal and child health. In commemoration of International Migrants Day last December, I wrote a blog for MARCH, exploring the connections between climate emergencies, forced displacement and the detrimental effects on climate migrants’ access to SRH services. Looking ahead, I am collaborating with the Planetary Health Network to hopefully organise a panel event in the spring, inviting leading researchers in the interdisciplinary field of environmental health and women’s health. 

JC: I am currently hoping to arrange a collaborative event with the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health, such as a film screening which showcases both topic areas. We are also in the process of planning a summer project showcase for topics related to MARCH.

JZ: I am currently working on birth theme of MARCH and hope to organise events on birth related areas such as maternity, antenatal, postnatal and reproductive health services.

Where do you see your work going in the future?

CB: I see myself working in global programmes that enhance maternal and child health promotion, safety and prevention. I would like to engage with health policy advisors in women’s health such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women. Students are the future for change to reshape the world we are living in. 

DZ: After graduating, I hope to work for an international public health agency to apply my public health framework in assessing and coordinating responses to maternal and child health in crisis settings. I look forward to getting involved with organizations like UNFPA, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to conduct health systems research and identify major challenges within resource-constrained settings. My goals are to use health systems research to tailor public health interventions to the needs of the most vulnerable populations and ultimately alleviate persisting health inequities. 

JC: I am open to many different avenues, but I would love to work for an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) or global governance organisation. I am also very interested in epidemiological field work.

JZ: In the future, I hope to work for organisations related to maternal, reproductive, and sexual health, especially in LMICs, to promote women's choices and reproductive education.

What were three words sum up your time at LSHTM so far?

CB: Mind blowing, exciting, open

DZ: Enriching, diverse, dynamic 

JC: Thought-provoking, welcoming, exciting

JZ: Friendship, diverse, fulfilling

Do you have any advice for prospective students?

CB: Even if you don’t have clear in your mind what topic you want to explore during in your MSc, LSHTM gives you the opportunity to shift among modules and subjects to fill your mind with different perspectives, critical thinking and teamwork. Come and join the community, you will come out as a different human being!

DZ: My advice is to embrace the wide variety of resources at LSHTM, including the research centres within the school and the knowledge base and experiences of your peers. When I started the MSc, I was blown away by the diversity of the students in my programme, many having transitioned from long-term medical careers, public health fieldwork and health policy positions. The opportunity to collaborate with and learn from people from every corner of the world has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of the MSc. 

JC: Make the most out of the networking opportunities and events, and don’t be afraid to email people within the university that work in your field of interest. Studying can be intense so make sure you take breaks, there are lots of nice walks in London or hikes a short train ride away!

JZ: LSHTM is an amazing place and I hope you enjoy your year of study!


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