Global Health alumnus David Humphreys is a humanitarian in clinical and consultancy work alike
Name: David Humphreys
Based in: Melbourne, Australia
Degree: Master's of Global Health 2015
Current role: Medical Doctor, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Melbourne, Australia
After you graduated from KI, what was your next step and how did you find this opportunity?
After graduating from KI, I stayed on in Stockholm for a few months to undertake consultancy work in Global Health. This opportunity came about via a positive relationship with my thesis supervisor, who saw that I demonstrated potential as an early career researcher and invited me to collaborate on further projects. I was eager to learn: to gain experience and technical skill in reviewing literature, drafting reports, evaluating programs and contributing to funding decisions that would hopefully make a positive impact on peoples’ lives. I’ve been incredibly grateful for his support – our personalities, working styles, and life outlooks are remarkably similar, and we get on very well.
Following previous work for bilateral (the Swedish International Development Agency) and multilateral agency projects (The Global Fund for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria), we’re currently coordinating a discussion paper for the Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation (SIGHT). The nature of consulting has meant I can continue it both remotely and alongside my day-to-day clinical work. It’s rewarding to juxtapose the minutiae of medicine with thinking about bigger picture issues concerning the health of communities on the other side of the world.
Describe a day on the job in your current role?
In 2016, I returned to Australia to continue my training as an Emergency Physician in a busy tertiary referral hospital in Melbourne. On any given day, I might be resuscitating a critically unwell trauma or burns victim, helping treat an elderly patient with complex comorbidities, or working up a neonate for sepsis. I value the collaborative environment of the Emergency Department, and believe that multidisciplinary teamwork is essential to achieving optimal health outcomes for patients, their families and communities.
Recently, I accepted a posting with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to travel to Syria and volunteer for a period of four months. There, I’ll be working alongside other expatriate and local staff to deliver emergency care to victims of the country’s prolonged civil conflict. I’m a passionate humanitarian, and believe everyone has the right to access good healthcare wherever they are in the world, irrespective of race, religion, or circumstance.
What would be your advice on how to keep a balance between work and life?
I fear that striving for balance in life is somewhat like chasing a unicorn over a rainbow. It’s often unrealistic. Life is more like a pendulum: inevitably there will be times when we lose control and it swings too far this way or that. What’s more important, I believe, is to recognise and be mindful of these occasions. Sometimes they will be intentional - a pressing deadline, an unkind roster - but at others work creeps up on us surreptitiously and before we realise it we have little time for the people or activities we really care about.
I love nature. Its purity is cathartic and I often find taking time out from busy city life grants opportunity for reflection and perspective. I find similar meaning from exercise, and engaging with the arts. Everyone has their own passions and hobbies - which makes each of us unique - and we shouldn’t forgo them.
What is your advice to students at KI who are about to graduate?
Graduating from university can be a daunting time. Many people embark upon a Master's degree thinking or hoping it will be a job ticket and open up an instant career in a public health discipline. Unfortunately it’s never that simple. I was in a fortunate position, having a clinical career to fall back on, however for others it represents a first foray into the academic or professional marketplace.
My advice would be threefold. Firstly, follow your passion. In paraphrasing Hugh White, “don’t shy away from the biggest issues, because they are most interesting, and don’t underestimate your ability to contribute to them well”. Second, learn from and foster relationships with others. Humans are social beings, and KI brings interesting people from all over the world to one place – many of whom are doing remarkable things. You’ll never know where possible shared passions or collaborations may emerge. Finally, be interested, enthusiastic, and work hard. From memory, it was Picasso that said: “inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
Interview and correspondence thanks to Olivia Biermann, PhD student in PHS.