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60 Seconds with a Public Health Researcher

60 seconds with
Photo: 60 seconds with
We talk to Ellen Rosenfeld, a public health researcher and writer for HealthTimes. 

What is your current employer, title and role?

I am currently employed by the University of Melbourne as a Research Officer in a qualitative project looking at the way paediatric hospital staff communicate about medications.

Why did you become a public health researcher?
I became a public health researcher after spending years in Special Education. I was offered a job researching the context of traumatic injury in an Emergency Department and never returned to teaching!

What’s the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
There are a number of rewarding things about my job, but the most enjoyable part for me is the interaction I have with nurses, other staff and families, in the course of my fieldwork.
What makes a good public health researcher?
A good public health researcher has an inquiring mind, an appreciation for the multiple variables contributing to public health phenomena, robust interpersonal skills, perseverance and the ability to attend to details. She or he also needs to be able to find solutions for the "left field" issues that invariably pop up during the course of the research.

What would you have done if you hadn’t become a public health researcher?
We all fantasise about other working lives....if I hadn't been a public health researcher, I would have loved to teach history or literature. Then again I could have sunk myself into Spanish and opened a small shop in Buenos Aires selling Aussie clothes to tango dancers.....

What advancements do you think will change the health industry in the next 10 years?
Clinical technology changes with great speed...in 10 years' time, I suspect most hospitals will have electronic medical records in place; we may have the beginnings of cancer treatment tailored to the genotype of patients; at the level of population health we may (if lucky) have begun to reduce obesity rates.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
In five years' time I hope to be working from home, exploring "transition to retirement"!

What advice would you give to new health graduates?
Find a position, or health area that you are really passionate about working in. Everything flows so much easier if you love what you do.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Dr. Ron Somers, an epidemiologist who trained me in injury surveillance and prevention, had a strong influence on my approach to public health life. He taught me to persist, to be assiduous in achieving goals, and to take the time to read about issues thoroughly, an unusually considered approach in contemporary culture.

What is your least favourite thing about working in public health research?
My least favourite thing about public health research is that much of it, (though certainly not all), presents itself in terms of contracts.  It takes a lot of time and energy to hunt the "next gig".

Who is your role model and why?
Dr. Fiona Stanley for her extraordinary contribution to public health in Australia, for both her passion and compassion.

What is the best/worst thing that has happened to you while working in hospitals?
One of the best things that happened to me whilst working in hospitals was being able to arrange a bag pipe player for a lovely older Scots patient on her birthday! Patients and staff loved it...lucky for me, the oncology Director allowed it!

The worst thing that happened to me in a hospital was working in Emergency when a much-loved older friend was admitted after a motor vehicle accident.

What do you wish other people knew about health professionals?
I wish other people knew that most health professionals are enormously committed to doing their very best for the patients under their care.

If you were 80 years old, what would you tell your children?
I'd tell them to laugh as much as they can, to relax at every opportunity and never to pass up a chance for kindness.

If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?
If I didn't have to work I'd garden daily, go to Spanish class, try and write a novel, travel....too much to list!

Recent articles by Ellen Rosenfeld
Sleuths of Infection: Contact Tracing
Seize the Day-Laughter in Oncology
Stain on our Nation: Domestic and Family Violence
Sex and Diabetes. Secret Women's Business

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