Kelechi Nnoaham

My training in public health at Oxford School of Public Health has had significant impact on my life and career. My journey into Public Health from a clinical infectious diseases background began with a light-bulb-in-the-head moment while working as a sole medical doctor in a very resource-poor community in Northern Nigeria. I saw first-hand the difference a population approach to health and health care could make and wanted to know all about it but I don’t think I had enough information to have consciously carved a path to Oxford. It was happenstance that, having just completed a high-intensity MSc in Tropical Medicine and International Health at LSHTM, I was bored out of my mind from a precipitous drop in adrenalin. Taking a walk down the street, I saw a newspaper where higher Public Health specialist training in Oxford was advertised. I thought, ‘why not’? On the memorable day I came to Oxford for the first time for my interview and walked into Old Road Campus, I knew I had made a momentous decision after interviewing successfully. I went on to meet fantastic trainers, teachers and peers over the 5 years of training. On completion of specialist training in November 2009, I took up a consultant post in Berkshire where I worked until March 2013. I now work as Service Director for Public Health in Bristol City Council.

What was it about training in Oxford School of Public Health and being part of its public health service and academic community that so strongly impacted me? I think it is many things but a few deserve specific mention. In my current role, I have a fantastic mix of strategic leadership and a lead on technical aspects of public health (e.g. information/intelligence, health protection, core offer work with CCGs). Working across the breadth of public health and with the complexity of challenges that come with the role requires a certain measure of self-belief. One thing I got in abundance in training was the opportunity to work with senior colleagues who helped instil this quality in me by achieving a perfect balance between independence and necessary guidance in the dispensation of training. This self-directed theme of learning was an evident leitmotif of the Oxford MSc in Global Health Sciences curriculum which combined a measured didactic component with strong independent learning. The quality of the education and training in Oxford was simply fascinating. I will not forget one of my first few weeks studying for the MSc when a dignified elderly gentleman walked into the classroom to teach us Biostatistics. That I left the session having learnt something despite being star-struck was a testimony to how good a teacher Professor Sir David Cox of the famed Cox proportional hazards model was. Such exposure to national and international leaders of thought and pioneers in the field of public health and its basic arts and sciences remains something I reminisce on with great pleasure. Our Tuesday evening masterclasses with public health experts, the diverse training opportunities available for trainees across service and academic public health, the wonderful flexibility of training that allowed a trainee to train to their strengths while identifying and developing their limitations all made training in Oxford School of Public Health an immensely rewarding experience.

What more can I say – it’s now over eight years since I joined the school, but I have maintained both personal and professional relationships with a host of people of the finest personal and professional qualities whom I met in Oxford while in training. In my short but eventful career in public health so far, I have my training in Oxford School of Public Health to thank for the experiences I had in it, the qualities it helped me develop and the competencies I acquired there while making the most of the simple things of life such as building lasting and positive relationships with people.