Maximising my 1-Year while studying MSc Health Policy, Planning & Financing at LSHTM & LSE

Syarmine from Malaysia studied MSc Health Policy, Planning & Financing, a joint programme provided by LSHTM & the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He shares with us how he maximised his time during the year and was 6,000 miles away from home.
Syarmine, standing outside of LSHTM Keppel Street Building

Hi, my name is Syarmine. I am qualified in medicine from Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) and I am a medical doctor by training. Previously working in a social security organisation, I found my interest in the intersection of health and policy in improving the health outcome of the population.

I only have 1 year in the United Kingdom for my MSc. With a limited amount of time and resources, I knew I had to maximise my time. Since my MSc is a joint programme by LSHTM and LSE, it adds to the complexity and the need to be more strategic in my action to avoid clashes in my timetable.

This is how I do it:

MSc Planning: Term Time, Modules and Navigation

  • I have 3 Terms (Term 1, Term 2, and Summer Term), where I need to take 8 modules (4 from LSHTM, 4 from LSE) with a 10,000-word project dissertation. As I wanted my course to be policy-oriented mixed with technical skills, my module selection in Term 1 for LSHTM was Health Policy Process Power & Issues in Public Health, meanwhile for LSE was Health Financing & Health Economics. For Term 2, from the LSHTM side, I took Economic Evaluation & Economic Analysis in Health Policy while for LSE I chose Pharmaceutical Economics and Applied Regression.
  • Reading the 106-page HPPF module handbook helped me to decide which modules to take, their weightage, and which course is compulsory, semi compulsory and elective. I was also able to request to Program Director for specialised (methodology) modules that are not within the handbook!
  • Additionally, attending the Welcome Week gave me practical insight into how the MSc is delivered. It is highly recommended that upcoming students attend the Welcome Week and also explore the Marketplace (Student Society, Clubs, Library Support, Academic Support) to know the opportunities and services available at LSHTM!

Academic, Digital Skills and Research Journey

  • I was a clinical doctor back then; and my skillset was quite limited to only Word, PowerPoint and Excel. After investing my time for 2-3 hours weekly over a 10 months period attending and auditing almost all workshops held by LSHTM Library team and LSHTM Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), I can proudly say that I am proficient in doing effective literature searching, systematic review and meta-analyses and using digital tools such as EndNote, NVivo, Excel (Advanced Formula), programming and statistical software (Stata, SPSS, Python, R).
LSHTM Library, photo by Syarmine Shah
LSHTM Library, possessing multitude of magnum opus in epidemiology, tropical and infectious diseases, and public health materials, photo by Syarmine Shah

Maximising your status as a postgraduate at LSHTM

  • LSHTM provides you with a number of licensed software such as NVivo, Stata, SPSS, ArcGIS, Endnote and free-to-use programs (EpiData, Epi Info 7, Mendeley, R, R Studio) for installation on your personal computer. If you need High-Performance Computing (HPC) you also may request an account! Also, don’t forget to download a personal copy of the latest Office programs on up to five personal devices for free.
  • Although your MSc might be specialised, you may wish to get ‘read-only access’ for modules you are not registered for! For example, as a self-taught coder, I learn a lot of coding and statistical skills by auditing LSHTM programming, epidemiology and machine learning module via this route, building further my existing knowledge of data analysis

  • LSHTM is the hub for public health and yes, there is a lot of events happening during the term, both public and closed event. As LSHTM students, I suggest one must attend the Global Health Lecture Series, and try to subscribe to all 13 School Centres that actively innovating solutions to address global health challenges through their projects and groups. Additionally, LSHTM is also the centre for 5 WHO Collaborating Centres that should pique your interest to follow, connect with the experts and perhaps volunteer in one of the projects.
  • With over 74 databases provided by LSHTM including PubMed, Ovid Databases and Web of Science, your research journey should start as soon as you get your LSHTM ID! With over 74 databases provided by LSHTM including PubMed, Ovid Databases and Web of Science, your research journey should start as soon as you get your LSHTM ID!
  • In case you still want to spend some time outside the public health domain, LSHTM provides you access to LinkedIn Learning, where you can supplement your knowledge with over 13,000 videos on-demand covering over 8,500 skills.
  • Don’t forget to get your student discount on every occasion! Examples include Unidays, Amazon Prime, Student Oyster Card, Railcard and while eating out at restaurants.
Syarmine Shah participating ASICS London 10K Run, photo by Syarmine Shah
Syarmine Shah participating ASICS London 10K Run, photo by Syarmine Shah

Maintaining my well-being and mental health

  • Outside LSHTM, I always look around for events via Eventbrite, offering access to a plethora of events happening around the UK and even Europe! Personally, I love attending university public lectures given by world-renowned speakers, where I have the opportunity to visit all UCL, Imperial College, King’s College, SOAS, Birkbeck, Queen Mary, Northumbria, Cambridge and Oxford. I also had the chance to participate in open government and think tank events at the UK Parliament, Chatham House, Intelligence Squared and many others!
  • I usually plan my day ahead and avoid repeating the same routine every day. I took the liberty to walk as much as possible, as London is one of the most walkable major cities. I aim to get 15,000 to 20,000 steps minimum every day.
  • I had the opportunity to participate in ASICS 10K Run, running at the heart of London, an event everyone should try.
  • I found my other interest in photography given the infinite architectural marvel across the UK. I dedicated a special Instagram portfolio titled “digitalsurah” to capture these memories and beauties.
  • Studying as a parent together with my beloved wife, Alaa’ Zain (who is also an MSc Public Health student at LSHTM) and Sofwan is the main motivation and mental health support while being far away from home.
  • A special mention: Staying at Goodenough College, a postgraduate student accommodation for over 700 students from 80 countries, is truly a remarkable experience, having a bespoke community and the finest postgraduate residence in London. The college also offers many opportunities on its own with countless events, port talks, trips and countless activities to join.
During one of Goodenough Formal Dinner, a community with students from around the world, photo by Syarmine Shah
During one of Goodenough Formal Dinner, a community with students from around the world, photo by Syarmine Shah

Conclusion and plan after graduation

My one-year journey studying health policy at LSHTM has been transformative in every sense. I have grown both personally and professionally. The School has provided me with the knowledge, skills, and network necessary to make a lasting impact in the field of health policy. Moving forward, combining the intersection between public health and social science taught from LSHTM-LSE, I plan to focus on translating my knowledge in policy, data and social science to drive positive change, especially in the topic of data science and planetary health. My short-term goals would be to strengthen my portfolio and social presence using data-driven evidence learned at LSHTM and as I step further, my intermediate to long-term objectives are centered around making a measurable and scalable impact on populations, ultimately contributing to the well-being of our planet.