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Public Health Alumnus Salvador Alvarado-López: "I would love to, at some point, become the Minister of Health of Mexico"

Name: Salvador Alvarado-López
Based: Uppsala, Sweden
Degree: Master Programme in Public Health – Health Economics, Policy and Management, 2018
Current role: Medicines safety officer. Uppsala Monitoring Centre, WHO’s Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring

Alumnus Salvador Alvarado-López

What is your background/education experience?

I have an education as a Medical Doctor from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City (2009 – 2016). I also have public health training from Weill Cornell Medical college in Qatar (2015), with a research project on the trends and consequences road traffic crashes in Qatar.

At KI, I have a Master´s in Public Health (HEPM), (2016 -2018). My Master´s thesis project was: Cost utility analysis of intensified versus standard post-discharge management for Heart Failure in Australia, results from the WHICH-2 multicenter randomized trial. Centre for Applied Health Economics, Menzies Health Institute, Brisbane, Queensland Australia (2018)

How did you choose to study at KI?

It was actually really funny. I was looking for a program that included Health Economics and Health Policy together, and I had been looking for programs in the US. However, the only programmes I found were either Health Economics or Health Policy separately. A friend who was interested in applying to the Epidemiology branch of the KI program told me about the other branch of the Masters in Public Health that included (at that time), the specialization in Health Economics, Health Policy and Health Management combined, so I took a look at the syllabus and applied!

Describe your experience at KI

I think my experiences at KI during the two years of the Master’s programme were amazing: not only from the professional point of view, with great lectures and teachers, but also from the personal point of view. I had the great opportunity to meet people from very different parts of the world, and I definitely made friends for life.

After you graduated from KI, what was your next step?

Studying at KI opens the world for you! I had the chance to perform my Master´s thesis in the Centre for Applied Health Economics, in Brisbane Australia. After finishing, I was offered a research position with the aim of starting a PhD one year after. However, before saying yes, I wanted to explore the possibilities in Europe, and I was very happy to be offered a PhD in Switzerland, part of a project which worked with economic evaluations of healthcare programs in elderly people.

Despite being very happy with the offers, I still wanted to be somehow ambitious and was still determined to find a job that could somehow kept me linked with Latin America (as I am from Mexico). Luckily for me, a friend of mine was working at the WHO Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring (Uppsala Monitoring Centre), and she told me that they were recruiting. To my surprise, they were looking for a Medical Doctor, preferably trained in Latin America, with a Master’s degree in public health and that had Spanish as its native language! The role was as Medicines Safety Officer focused in that region of the world. As you may be thinking, I could not have had more luck!

What is your current role?

My current position is called Medicines Safety Officer. Basically, what I do is to provide technical, operational and scientific support to regulatory authorities and ministries of Health in the Latin American region with regards to medicines safety, as part of the World Health Organization – Programme for International Drug Monitoring, which is hosted at the Uppsala Monitoring Centre. This program, which started with the reporting of limbs defects (phocomelia) derived from the use Thalidomide during pregnancy in the 60s, aims to collect, analyze and prevent adverse events derived from medicines and vaccines. This means that all pharma companies, health personnel and medicines users are responsible to report to their national regulatory authority, those adverse effects that may have been caused by the consumption of a drug or vaccine. All this data is collected and analyzed in order to identify their relationship to a molecule and evaluate changes that can be small, like an extra warning on the label to the cancellation of the marketing permit to sell a product in a country.

Describe a day on the job.

My job involves a lot teleconferences and travel to several parts of the world to visit regulatory authorities and ministries of health in order to provide advice with regards to medicines safety. While at my office in Sweden, my daily activities range from verifying the correct intake of data from the medicines safety surveillance systems implemented in the countries, to monitoring the data on adverse events from the LATAM region and contribute to the production of warnings (“signals” in the medicines safety world) that can prevent patients from experiencing and adverse effect after the consumption of a medicinal product.

What are your future aspirations?

I will say what I have been telling my friends since I decided to study Public Health (I said this same thing the first day of classes at KI, and got some nice laughs and good words from colleagues and teachers). I would love to, at some point, become the Minister of Health of Mexico. It may sound too ambitious, but I guess I should try it if I really want to do it. Actually now, as part of my job, I have traveled to Mexico and had meetings with him and his team .

What is your advice to current students?

My advice would be to never let go of dreams and opportunities no matter how crazy or far away they seem. The road ahead may be tough, but the idea is to be able to look back and enjoy the view of what you have achieved.

How did your studies at KI help your future career?

My studies at KI are, I would say, key for my daily job, especially because it is important to know how different health systems are structured and how they work in order to identify potential improvements and of course have the ability to politically influence the decisions taken in a country.