London calling: How a Canadian student became Chair of Health Data Science at Queen Mary University of London

Prior to undertaking her undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Rohini Mathur was torn between an interest in the arts and sciences. Yet after a friend introduced her to a programme in Public Health and Epidemiology, her career path was set.

After completing her undergraduate degree she was encouraged to study overseas, and therefore began her masters programme at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). This proved to be a rich environment, where Rohini was exposed to diverse perspectives and experiences. After completing her education, Rohini returned to LSHTM as an academic, working on a project that appeared tailor made for her interests. This project focussed on ethnic inequalities in diabetes care and outcomes.

After a rewarding eight-year career at LSHTM, Rohini was approached by colleagues at Queen Mary University – where she had previously been a research fellow – with a unique offer to join the new Wolfson Institute for Population Health as Professor and Chair of Health Data Science.

As part of this role, Rohini is responsible for mentoring students and early career researchers. She regards a PhD much like ‘an apprenticeship in being an academic’ in which you cultivate and practice skills, working to develop yourself and your craft. Rohini takes pride in helping others to develop their own career journey.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Rohini was able to fulfil what would become her career highlight. She was responsible for advising the UK Government as a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) ethnicity subgroup. This group brought together individuals from a range of sectors, and showcased how people can work collaboratively to overcome previously established barriers and achieve critical results. 

Looking ahead, Rohini is looking forward to her keynote speech at the ADR UK Conference 2023.

Callum: You’re presenting at the ADR UK Conference 2023 on the theme of ‘Research to support renewal, recovery and resilience’. Why do you feel this is an important subject to highlight?

Rohini: The pandemic helped illustrate the link between research and practice – and the importance of having a feedback cycle which transforms the experiences of healthcare providers and recipients into readily available evidence.

We now have a wealth of data – pre-pandemic, during and post-pandemic – that can enable us to learn from our experiences and build a roadmap for the future. We have to understand the importance of how doing simple things really well can make a big difference on a population scale. That means using this data to help us make the best use of our limited NHS and social care resources.

Callum: Is there an aspect to this conference – or any conference for that matter – that you particularly enjoy the most?

Rohini: The thing I enjoy most about conferences – especially this one – is the ability to meet and network with people who are working across multiple disciplines. It’s also nice to support people who are going to conferences for the first time, early in their career.

Callum enjoyed sitting down with Rohini to learn more about her career. Beyond research, they discussed her on-going (virtual) Indian classical dance classes, her participation in a choir, how she enjoys relaxing with her husband and entourage of cats, and their shared passion for Zelda – a popular video game.

Rohini is currently busy developing international collaborations. This includes an important project with Chiang Mai University in Thailand, focussed on embedding quality improvement into routine clinical care for people with chronic conditions.   

About the conference

You can hear more from Rohini at the ADR UK Conference 2023, which will take place in Birmingham from 14 – 16 November. The conference will bring together people involved in the use of administrative data for public good research, including researchers, data scientists, civil service analysts and those involved in making this data available for research.

Early Bird and Group Rate Tickets are available now, only until 21 August 2021. To learn more and buy your ticket please visit the ADR UK Conference 2023 website.

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