Nikita Bathla was a full-time medical doctor in her home country India before she decided she wanted to transition out of clinical practice. “I found myself frustrated at the number of barriers that patients and practitioners faced while providing and receiving care,” she explains. Instead, she felt a calling to “pursue a career that works at the systemic levels of health care delivery”.
Seeking to learn the best practices in Health Leadership and Management, Nikita set her sights far. “In India, the few public health programs available were just starting out,” she says. “I thought going abroad would give me greater exposure and an updated insight into the fields of public health and management.”
She found the perfect institution in UNSW Sydney. Established in 1949, UNSW Sydney is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. As well as being one of the top 50 universities worldwide and number one in Australia for research impact, it has a Faculty of Medicine and Health that ranks among one of the world’s top 50 medical faculties. For over 60 years, HLM degree has prepared students for leadership and managerial roles in healthcare, both within Australia and globally.
This world-leading faculty offers a range of innovative undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs for students across all professional levels. Nikita chose the Master of Global Health/Master of Health Leadership and Management, a double degree aiming to equip health professionals with the essential knowledge, skills and attributes they need to succeed in senior managerial and leadership roles in population, clinical and departmental health services with a global health perspective.
The program prepares students for future work at a range of employers, including bilateral and multilateral international aid organisations, UN-based organisations, civil society and NGOs, private foundations, health departments, academia and development-based organisations.
Most appealing to Nikita was the chance to complete two in-demand programs in less than two years. Taught over 1.7 years, this dual degree program combines the knowledge and skills from two related disciplines. Here, students are taught everything from Health Promotion and Social Perspectives of Health and Clinical Governance and Risk Management, to more specialised electives such as Maternal and Child Health, Digital Health, and Implementation Science.
Nikita’s favourite was her class in Health Leadership and Workforce Management. “I came from a very traditional educational set up full of textbooks and rote learning,” she shares. “This class was extremely fun to attend with a host of group learning activities and engaging discussions from real-life situations. Even though I wasn’t in an immediate leadership position at the time, I could relate to a lot of situations I had been in where the leaders displayed unfavourable leadership styles and I reflected on what kind of leader I wanted to be.”
Experiential learning opportunities are at the forefront of the program. For Nikita, this translated to developing her own research protocol as well as the opportunity to volunteer as a research assistant. “I was very lucky to assist on a project developing a clinical decision tool for clinicians to use with their patients during their end-of-life conversation,” she shares. “This position allowed me to develop literature review skills and also work with investigators for the first time.”
What drew Nikita to the program in particular, however, was the opportunity to engage in practical work through an internship option. “The School of Population Health offers a six-credit internship course as part of the dual degree program,” she says. “Unlike a lot of my peers, who were pursuing the course part-time along with full-time work, I was new to the field of public health and thought I would have much to gain from an internship at the beginning of my public health career.”
Here, Nikita benefited from UNSW Sydney’s many industry connections to land an internship with The George Institute for Global Health . “I was keen to intern with The George Institute because it has an international presence and does work in noncommunicable disease, which was my primary interest at the time,” she says. “It was a huge advantage that the Institute also had offices in India and since I wanted to return to my home country to work, this was a great opportunity to learn about the organisation and its work culture.”
This eventually translated to a full-time role — a feat made possible by Nikita’s familiarity and experience with the organisation during the program. Today, she works as a Clinical Trials Manager, focusing on repurposing existing medicine and treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 across over 50 hospitals in India. “My work has been an ideal mix of both public health and health management,” she says.
All in all, it’s exactly what Nikita hoped to gain out of the program: the opportunity to expand her role and, in turn, “make a change to the broader processes in health care delivery,” she says. “Through my learning at university and my experience at my workplace so far, I definitely feel equipped to play a role in improving the delivery of health care in India.”