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In this blog, Madeline Tatum, a recent graduate of the full-time MSc in Translational Health Sciences, shares what she most valued from her experience of studying on the programme.

Profile photo of MSc THS student, Madeline Tatum

I am a recent graduate of the MSc in Translational Health Sciences (THS), and often get asked, 'What is translational health sciences?' I always explain it as the process of taking healthcare research into practice; addressing questions like 'Why do innovative healthcare-related ideas fail or succeed?' In this course, we examined innovations from all different perspectives: policy, societal, economic, regulatory, etc. Personally, this course ended up being a big blessing in my life as it brought together so many of my different interests and experiences. Below, I wanted to highlight a few of the things I am most grateful for from the course: it's unique focus, the students I got to know, and the skills I fostered/mentorship I received.

This MSc is intentionally designed to focus on the bigger picture. It is different from the majority of health-focused master’s degrees as most focus on a technical occupation (e.g., occupational therapist) or fall to a well-defined single-sector field of study (e.g., health policy). THS is intentionally designed to sit in the middle of a lot of these fields, reflecting the multi-disciplinary and complex nature of healthcare. In my own search for a master’s degree, I was looking for a program that examined healthcare issues from a macro level, considering many different reasons why healthcare innovations succeeded or failed. In my own experience, I had been trained in a technical field (i.e., speech therapy and audiology), but had since been working in a macro-level space of public health. One issue that I found while working in public health was that we often solely looked for solutions within our own sector; however, the solutions we chose frequently did not work. I intentionally chose a master’s degree that challenged a single-sector approach.

Naturally, one of the highlights of this programme was getting to mesh with a cohort of individuals who thought similarly about healthcare. My cohort included students from a variety of backgrounds: a UX medical device researcher from Malaysia, a consultant and pharmacist from Jordan, an OBGYN from Kenya, an industry professional focused on consumer health from the UK, and a health investor from Singapore. What other programme would bring together people from such different professional and geographic backgrounds? Class discussions were dynamic, spanning a myriad of topics from patient and public involvement to health policy. Each individual brought their own professional and national lens to the conversation. In my professional experience, these types of conversations are rare. Beyond simply the academic discourse, I found this group of people to be just lovely; I felt supported, known, and valued. I could not have asked for a better group of students to learn alongside.

Lastly, I gained numerous skills, opportunities, and mentorship through the THS programme. One of the main highlights of the THS program was (I am surprised to be saying this myself) the dissertation. For my dissertation, I partnered with a UK-based organisation, the James Lind Alliance (JLA), to complete a quantitative analysis. To explain, the JLA never had a quantitative analysis completed on their outcomes previously. To be honest, prior to the MSc in THS, I would not have said that I could have completed a quantitative analysis. In my speech therapy days, the maximum maths that we needed were basic averages (e.g., “the child articulated the /r/ sound correctly 4/10 times, averaging 40% of the time”). For this dissertation, I learned my first statistical package, worked with a 500+ variable dataset and learned about p-values (I know, I am a bit late to the game). This would not have been possible without a highly supportive supervisor who believed in me and partnered with me every step of the way. In the end, I was asked to present my findings at the JLA’s executive retreat in London and my research will be posted on their website. Beyond the dissertation, two professors included me in their own research, providing me with unique experiences and knowledge that would not have been possible otherwise.

If you are interested in studying healthcare from a macro-level perspective, especially if you love sociology, I would urge you to consider the MSc in Translational Health Sciences. I gained immeasurable knowledge, experience, and perspective over the past year as a THS student. In short, I am very grateful - thank you to all of you who made it so special.

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.

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