How the Oxford Masters in Translational Health Sciences impacted an Australian GP working at the nexus of research and health policy
16 January 2024
Dr Isabel Hanson recently completed her MSc in Translational Health Sciences. Here she discusses her experience of the course and where it will lead her next.
Where did you study and work previously?
I am an Australian GP working with the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Before coming to Oxford, I also worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney, and as a Senior Policy Advisor with the Centre for Policy Development. For my past studies, I have a post graduate medical degree, a BA in political economy, and a BSc in psychology.
Why Translational Health Sciences?
In medicine there is often an assumption that if the evidence exists, then good ideas will be adopted. However, in practice whether a good idea is adopted depends on many other factors: how well the idea is communicated, how it fits within the existing complex system, and how individuals and communities feel about the idea.
I wanted to learn how to make a positive impact in healthcare, particularly to improve health equity. Understanding translational health sciences is the crucial step in implementing programmes that work.
What has your experience of the programme been?
The MSc in THS programme has been the foundation for me to undertake a DPhil in Primary Care. My DPhil topic is youth mental health care across Australia and the UK, and how these models of care can be strengthened. The translational health sciences knowledge that I gained, particularly in research evaluation and impact, has been invaluable in establishing my future research career path.
What have you enjoyed?
The course intensive weeks were fantastic! The THS cohort includes a wonderful diversity of people from a range of countries, cultures, and professional backgrounds. I learned just as much from my colleagues during class discussions, particularly those from different backgrounds to me, as I did from the course work.
MSc in THS students, left to right: Sakshi Setia, Amy Meng, Isabel Hanson and Viktoriia Podvorchanska at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
When you were able to come here, how did you find Oxford as a place to study and live/stay?
As a medic with interest in social science I chose Green Templeton College, and they were very helpful in assisting me to find a place to live and to get set up in Oxford. Moving to the other side of the world can be daunting, and it was really useful having a team of friendly people offering advice and support. The THS course administration team are fantastic as well, everything was clear and well organised from the start, so I always knew what I needed to do next for each part of the course.
What would your advice be to students considering studying your programme at Oxford?
I would say YES come and join the THS Master's programme! It was a wonderful learning experience. I have made many new friends from across the world, and it has changed how I think about research, policy, and my work as a clinician.
My advice to prospective students considering the course would be to come as you are, and trust that your perspective is valuable. My cohort had everyone from doctors and healthcare professionals, policy makers, patient advocates, pharmacists, and entrepreneurs to medical receptionists, engineers, and behavioural scientists. I'm picture above, under a T-Rex, with fellow students Sakshi who is a medical doctor from India, Amy who works in global public health for the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation in New York, and Viktoriia, a lawyer from Ukraine
If you read and think deeply about the course material, and come ready to discuss it, you will get a lot out of this programme, both professionally and personally.
What to read next
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Amy Dickinson who recently completed her MSc in Translational Health Sciences shares her experiences of the programme as a chronic illness sufferer and her recommendations for students taking the master’s from the patient perspective.