November 20, 2018

A Day In The Life Of A HEALTH POLICY AND SYSTEMS RESEARCHER

Dr. Aku Kwamie

Name: Aku Kwamie

Qualification: BSc Human Biology (University of Toronto), MSc Biomedical Science Research (King’s College -London), PhD in Health Policy (Neatherlands)

  • I got in to my job by providence. The field of health policy and systems research brings together health systems analysis with policy development, and my focus is on health systems governance. Currently I work independently, but I have in the past workedin academia and government. When I couldn’t find a job after graduation, I applied for an internship at the World Health Organization and that set me on the path of international public health. After working for several years in different community settings across Africa in women’s health, HIV, and health information systems, I pursued a PhD in Health Policy in the Netherlands.

 

  • My day usually starts just before 5 am and ends by midnight. My day begins with prayer. I am usually at my desk just before 8 am, and I start by clearing emails, administrative work or other minutiae. Then I dive into whatever is on my desk for that day: it usually is something to read, something to write, or something to think about. There are often teleconferences involving international partners, or meetings with government. Because I manage my own time, on evenings when I have a church meeting I close early. Sometimes I have to do a bit of work on a Saturday.

 

  • There is no typical day. My work involves a lot of projects, a lot of travel, and a lot of meetings. The health policy and systems researcher wears many hats. At a given point I might be conducting my own research, which involves data collection (out in the field), data analysis and writing (in front of my computer), or presenting my research (at a scientific conference, or government policy dialogue). It also involves implementation work, which means putting into practice my research findings. I have worked with district health managers to improve organizational processes, and developed training curricula and run workshops with them. I also teach Masters’-level courses internationally (at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp). If I am providing a specific service to an organization, this might involve developing their monitoring and learning strategy, or other needed organizational capacities to help them “do HPSR”. It’s also normal for me to be called upon to conduct peer-reviews of scientific papers.

 

  • The best part of my job is its diversity. The field is by its nature multi-disciplinary, so there is always something to be learned from a different disciplinary perspective. It also spans levels, from community to the global. For example, if we want to advise government on how to improve national health insurance, we need to bring economic, anthropological, sociological and political understandings together, and see how these link from the household to international agreements. This is what health policy and systems research seeks to do. Because the field is relatively young there are lots of opportunities for “field-building”: defining concepts and establishing the boundaries around what health policy and systems research is, and what it is not. That excites me.

 

  • There is truly no negative aspect to my job. Perhaps that the field offers so much choice that it can sometimes be difficult to say no to every opportunity that comes up.

 

  • A memorable moment I have involves attending the field’s major event, a conference that takes place every two years. When I first attended, I was so excited because I was nominated as part of a group of ‘Emerging Voices’, and we were given training in making presentations, and other important skills. That conference stands out because it really grounded me in the field, and gave me a sense of belonging. I’ve since grown: I now sit on the Board of Directors, and am one of those responsible for putting the conference programme together.

 

  • Outside of work I serve actively in my church. I spend time with my family. I read a lot.

 

  • My advice is to seek out your purpose. What gifts and talents do you have? What passions do you dream of? What vision do you have for your life? What is the solution you are providing to an unsolved problem? Identify these, keep them in a book. Pray. Make a plan. Take action. And watch your fulfilled life unfold.
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