This is an interview by Dr Richard Cooper - Course Director for the Master of Public Health course at School of Health and Related Research [ScHARR], University of Sheffield
Q. What one aspect of the course you teach do you personally look forward to each year, and why? For example, for English professors, what book or author do you most look forward to covering?
I like everything I teach but if I had to choose, then I would say I particularly like teaching research methods and then supervising our students in their dissertations. ScHARR’s teaching is very much research-led and our core modules for MPH students on research methods draws on our expertise in how to apply methods in health and public health settings. Students often then go on to undertake empirical dissertation projects, and several working with organisations on real-world projects, and this is very satisfying in terms of seeing them apply their knowledge and skills to their own projects and interests as well as those of external partners.
Q. Tell us a bit about the faculty or staff in the department, and where they come from.
ScHARR is a rich academic environment and a key strength is that staff come from many different backgrounds. It’s the reason I travel 130 kilometres a day by train and bicycle to work here! On the Master of Public Health, we have epidemiologists, statisticians, sociologists, managers, evaluation experts, qualitative researchers, and those with extensive public health experience, as well as medicine, nursing and pharmacy backgrounds. These also reflect not just UK but global experiences, to ensure we deliver teaching that is suited to students from any background.
Q. What are the benefits of studying this course at this particular university? (E.g. location to relevant places of interest, history, the “personality” of the university etc.)
We feel our Master of Public Health course in ScHARR
is one which offers not only research-led teaching based on considerable staff expertise and experience but also a contemporary and varied curriculum, that will engage students in the current debates and problems of public health, as well as allowing students to explore many topics of interest to them. Another feature of not just ScHARR, but also the University of Sheffield, and the city of Sheffield more generally is its welcoming and inclusive approach to students. This provides a supportive and enjoyable environment in which to study, which our alumni value highly.
Q. Why is it an exciting time (socially, historically or culturally) for prospective students to move into your field?
Public health has never been more important, as we encounter new challenges in areas such as obesity, for example, as the epidemiological transition globally means the burden of disease moves away from traditional communicable diseases. In addition, much greater recognition of the role of health inequalities in the UK and globally, means there are new challenges but also opportunities in how we try to improve population-level health. Through public health training on our Master of Public Health course, we can also contribute to key outcomes like the Millennium Development Goal in 2015.
Q. Can you give a few examples of the roles and positions which graduates have gone onto? As well as those you might expect, are there any unusual directions which graduates have gone in, or unorthodox ways they have applied their qualification?
Our Public Health graduates go on to work in very diverse areas, although many work with within a health or public health setting. Of particular note, is that a significant percentage goes on to undertake further academic study or to work in research or academic settings. Recent graduates are now working in the UK, in information analyst roles, in senior public health management positions, in health promotion activities, researching in universities, and as public health specialist in the local authority and in the NHS; internationally, students have found excellent opportunities in governments, health departments, universities, hospitals, as well as non-governmental organisations, undertaking leadership roles, public health programme interventions and evaluations, research, and policy-making.