What would you suggest to a student who wants to work in GH? Our third career story.


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Who are you, where are you from, and what is your role in GHNGN?
Hi reader, I’m Carmen Sant Fruchtman, the project supervisor of the Global Health Hangouts at GHNGN. I am originally from Barcelona but currently based in Basel, Switzerland.

How did you learn about the GHNGN?
In 2015, I discovered the field of Global Health by chance when I was looking for a career option that would allow me to combine my science interests and my will to help others. As I was researching to learn more about this field I found the GHNGN website but it wasn’t until a year later when I decided to actively engage and to collaborate with the network.

What is your current job/study position?
I am currently working as a project assistant at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) 1 and at the same time pursuing my masters in International Health also at the Swiss TPH.

What career path did you follow (bachelor, MSc, PhD…)?
My first step was studying Biotechnology at the University of Barcelona. From the very beginning, I enjoyed not only the courses that had to do with human health but also the ones that involved interdisciplinarity. I finished my degree in Salzburg, Austria, where I stayed for a year conducting research in a molecular biology lab. Working in the lab gave me an insight and understanding on how basic science is researched in an academic context. Soon after, I realized that the lab was not my place, so I switched hats and looked for a job in the industry. That is what brought me to Zurich, Switzerland.

Here, I started working as a Clinical Trial Associate at AMGEN 2. I was responsible for the administration of clinical trials in Switzerland and gained a valuable understanding of how drugs are developed and brought into the market. I had the great chance to switch to the medical department, within the same company. I then became a member of the Scientific Communications team, where I gave technical scientific support to internal and external customers.

In the field of biotechnology, AMGEN was the place to be. However, I was ready to explore other areas of work as I felt that something was missing and I needed a change. This was when I started the internet search that would finally lead me to the Masters in International Health at the Swiss TPH. Studying my masters part-time as a tropEd student has allowed me to be exposed to different institutions, countries, and dozens of inspiring international professionals.

Having finished the core module of my masters an opportunity came along to join the Swiss TPH as a project assistant and I didn’t hesitate.

What is your secret when it comes to applications?
This has been said already and it will sound very obvious, but it has been my truth. The secret has always been networking. The best career tips have come from people I have met on my way. This is why before making any changes I always discuss my application and ideas regarding my next step with other professionals I admire.

How does your current job/studies help you fulfill your ultimate goal/motivate you?
I feel very honored to be in my current position, as all I wanted since I started my masters was to get into the Swiss TPH. The aim of the project I am working on is to come up with a capacity development framework for malaria worldwide. The project is in collaboration with WHO and Roll Back Malaria partnership, giving me the opportunity to get to know both organizations.

At the same time, I am also working on my thesis, trying to strengthen my knowledge and understanding of health systems. The topic I am working on is an evaluation of a mHealth programme in Tanzania. I will be traveling in spring 2018 to interview all the stakeholders of the programme ‘SMS for Life’ 3 and I can’t wait to sit on the plane.

Are you interested in something other than what you currently do?
I have very broad interests, but one of my passions besides strengthening health systems are women rights and gender equity. For this reason, I also collaborate on different initiatives in Switzerland trying to improve the conditions of Swiss women, but also of women refugees.

What is global health for you?
This is the same question everyone has been making for the last 2 years and I’m still working on a good answer. Global Health is the science and all kinds of implementation practices that aims to improve the health of all of all ages. For me the ultimate goal of every Global Health expert should be Universal Health Coverage, giving access to good health for everyone everywhere.

What do you think your work as a GH professional brings to the global picture of GH?
Malaria is a preventable disease but still remains a high-burden in the most disadvantaged populations, leading to 90% of the deaths in 2016 in sub-Saharan Africa 4. For this reason, I believe my work in the development of a capacity-building framework could lead to some improvement. We are currently landscaping all malaria available training worldwide and assessing the training needs of the different health system levels. We aim to find the training gaps and develop a strategy to fill them. This framework will aim to reinforce the already existing knowledge in endemic countries.

What would you suggest a student who wants to work in GH?
Find someone you admire that could help you guide your way. Always remember that even the professionals with the highest positions had to start somewhere, so don’t be scared. Share your doubts, questions, ambitions and crazy ideas with that person or many others. Be open to any situation that could arise and stay flexible. The best moves will probably be the ones you didn’t plan!

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Carmen Sant Fruchtman graduated in BSc Biotechnology in 2013 from the University of Barcelona. Carmen has worked in a molecular biology laboratory in Austria and in the pharmaceutical industry in Switzerland and is currently working as a Project Assistant at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. At the same time, she is pursuing her Master’s in International Health as a tropEd part-time student. Her main interests in Global Health are: health systems strengthening, gender equity, and malaria.

References:

  1. Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute: <https://www.swisstph.ch/en/>
  2. Amgen: <http://www.amgen.com/>
  3. ’SMS for Life’ by Novartis. Available at: <https://www.novartis.com/our-company/corporate-responsibility/expanding-access-healthcare/novartis-social-business/sms-life>
  4. World Health Organization (2017) World Malaria Report. Available at: <http://www.who.int/malaria/publications/world-malaria-report-2017/en/>

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