Studying MSc Health Policy, Planning & Financing - Amit's story

Amit from India is studying the intensive MSc Health Policy, Planning & Financing. He explains how the programme is helping him transition from being a medical doctor to a career in health policy.
Amit ice skating at Natural History Museum

Please explain a bit about your academic/professional background

I'm a medical doctor from India with 6 years of clinical and public health experience. I have an MD in Preventive and Social Medicine, and currently pursuing the MSc Health Policy, Planning & Financing, a dual degree programme jointly delivered by two of the top schools in public health and social sciences: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Working as a doctor was a satisfying experience but unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps), for me it was not nearly enough. For in that capacity dealing with structural problems, like unfair distribution of resources and inequities in healthcare access on a wider scale, was simply not possible. It felt like a mechanistic rut of treating one patient at a time without being able to address the underlying systemic problems.

In January 2021, I oversaw the roll-out of the COVID vaccine and that is where I saw the impact of global health issues like the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) waiver negotiations and COVAX impacting locally which I reckon was the tipping point for me to jump ships. I realised that we as a society have developed robust healthcare interventions, but people in many parts of the world still do not have geographical or financial access to them due to a myriad of reasons and suffer from poor health and poverty as a consequence. I wanted to solve this problem by addressing health policies specifically in the area of health financing.

Why did you choose to study the MSc Health Policy, Planning & Financing? 

There are two main reasons why I chose this programme over others: first, the dual nature of the degree at schools which are eminent in their domain and second, London! Also, at the stage of the career I was in and because I was making a switch, I needed to make strong professional contacts and LSHTM, due to its long line of alumni and extensive network across the globe, was the perfect place - World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros being one of them was just the cherry on the cake!

What have you enjoyed most about the course?

I would be amiss if I did not mention that it was a pure academic joy and intellectual ecstasy to engage with the content of each module that I have taken. Although, ideally, I would have liked to take more modules if it was possible – it is not for good reason, because there is so much to do in London in one year. I have had the best year of my life here in London. The best thing about my course in particular is its dual nature and access to two of the top institutes in the heart of London.

Although managing the course between LSHTM and LSE is bit of a logistical challenge from course selection to being overwhelmed by the deluge of emails that you will receive from both universities, this is minor bickering as compared to all the added advantage of the dual nature of the course.

My programme director said in one of the welcome week sessions, "You are spoilt for choice" - it took us a few months to realise that for ourselves and for good!

What have been the best aspects of studying in London?

I have met people from all walks of life, across the globe and that has opened up new avenues of thinking for me. I now know that any one perspective is neither complete nor sufficient. I have always tried to reach out and engage with the student body of other institutes at walking distance from LSHTM like University College London. Just to be able to do that is very cool about London. As a city it never ceases to offer a new thing to do or a new place to see. The plethora of museums is just a tip of the iceberg of what it has to offer. I have enjoyed several musical concerts spread all across the city and West End theatres! And I will miss them.

Not often, but when the sun does come out, the city just lights up and comes alive. We managed to do some Hyde Park meet ups or walk in the Hackney area by the canal or the London Fields market, a sheer delight!

I have met people from all walks of life, across the globe and that has opened up new avenues of thinking for me.

How did you find the mix of online and in-person teaching?

There is no parallel of all in-person teaching simply because of the level of engagement and that is how all of us are accustomed to learning, I am sure. However, I have yet again been surprised by the incredible capacity of human beings to adapt. In the earlier online classes I found myself not paying my 100% attention because I knew that I could watch them later but after a few weeks, I found this same feature very useful, particularly during revisions. I did not have to look through notes. I could just watch the lecture again and do the essential readings for a course to be confident in exams. Plus, LSHTM put credible efforts to make the online learning experience as close to the in-person as possible by fully utilising all the features of Zoom like breakout rooms etc. and accompanying Q&A sessions with the recorded lectures.

How will the programme help your career in the future? 

Since I have jumped ships from being a medical doctor to a health policy person, this programme is fundamentally the guide to the rest of my career, hopefully in WHO. As of now, I am contacting alumni of this course on LinkedIn and the LSHTM Connect platform. It is reassuring to see that this programme makes us very employable.

What are your plans for after you complete your studies? 

In terms of the place, I am prepared and open to go to any country I can speak the language of. In terms of the work, I want to engage with health policy reform, preferably related to health financing. Ideally, I would like to work for the WHO at Geneva. But before going to a supranational organisation, I believe it'll help me to ground my feet in understanding government functions and bureaucratic procedures by working with government for a few years.

What advice would you give to someone considering studying your course?

The number one advice would be, manage your calendar well! The offerings are vast, and it is prudent to choose what matters most to you. Also, do get in touch with your professors and get involved in research. It is a great way to network and apply your learning and make new connections.

I would say, come with an open mind and try to see the connections between all things presented. If your takeaway is that nothing exists in isolation, and you can truly appreciate the interdependent nature of things, I would say you have succeeded.