Meet a Medical Doctor specializing in Public Health
Updated: May 24
Hi, I am Dr Cyan Brown and I am a medical doctor.
I have completed my MBChB and I am currently completing my Master’s degree in public health through King's College London and I am also a Forbes Ignite Fellow.
I have an exciting schedule that is different every day. I am involved in many organizations and initiatives that make my work in public health interesting and meaningful.
At the moment I am not practicing medicine because I am doing my master’s in public health and I am involved in various organizations. In the morning, I do my coursework for my degree and in the afternoon, I focus on my research. In between that, I am working with a team of women from all over the world and we are using artificial intelligence to help create solutions for neglected tropical diseases as part of the Forbes Ignite Fellowship. This involves lots of virtual meetings, research, creativity and learning many new skills. I am also a senior fellow for Health Equity with the Atlantic Institute, where the work is focused on making access to healthcare in society more equitable. With this work, I attend webinars and meetings with people from all corners of the globe to build community and initiatives that promote access to a fairer and healthier society. Through this organization, I have spent some time making documentaries about issues in healthcare and starting projects to improve the mental health of medical students.
I am also a non-executive board member for two organizations focused on promoting better health and development in society so this requires a lot of reading, meetings and building networks and capacity for the organizations. Within the public health field, I am also a part of different programs to learn more and the one I am doing currently is the Women Leaders for Planetary Health initiative where I have monthly meetings with women from many different countries learning about how the environment and public health intersect.
I love being able to connect with people from all over the world and work in a field as exciting as public health.
People often think if you study medicine you have to work in a hospital, however, there are many options for using your degree to make a big difference. I love learning new skills and building initiatives that improve people's health and quality of life.
The work I do as part of the organizations I am a part of allows me to help shape and contribute towards organizations I believe in that are making a significant impact in the lives of those who need it most. My master’s in public health has really enriched my medical undergraduate knowledge and I think will make me a better doctor in future. I also enjoy being able to work flexibly and remotely.
There is no 9 to 5 outline of hours, so often I have to work at odd hours when I need to meet colleagues in a different time zone online. My masters has been a lot of hard work, but that is totally worth the sacrifice and hours.
I was always interested in working to make a change at the system level of healthcare, and in my fourth year of medical studies was lucky enough to be a part of the South African-Washington International Program that offered me an opportunity to intern at John Snow Consulting, which is a public health consultancy in Washington DC. This really opened my eyes to what the field of public health is and how I can contribute as a doctor. I didn't know about all the opportunities that the Atlantic Institute Fellowship and the Forbes Ignite Fellowship offered when I started my studies, but I am very glad I found my way here. In every chapter of my life thus far I have been blessed with good mentors who have helped point me in this direction and I have also spent a lot of time investing in learning skills outside of the medical field that has enabled me to serve on boards and contribute to various organizations. I love what I do and also love that this field is so rich with opportunities to make a difference!
To work in public health, you can come from a variety of backgrounds and not just in health sciences either. In my master’s course, there is a statistician, economist, HR manager, nutritionist, data scientist, nurse and so many other fields too. Doing a postgraduate qualification, either masters or diploma, in the field is useful to get a job in the field. If you want to learn more about the Public Health Association in South Africa you can click here: https://phasa.org.za/
As a doctor, I have to register with the HPCSA to practice medicine in the country.
Learn as many skills as you can! University offers so many opportunities outside of your academic field- take as many as possible. Invest in your leadership skills and build your network as much as possible. Read about the field as much as possible and find other people who share your interest. Here's a great shortlist to start with about public health organizations in the field and newsletters:
https://www.gapminder.org/ - Read the book Factfulness
https://www.pih.org/ - Books by Paul Farmer are excellent
There are so many different things you can do in public health and ways to make a difference regardless of what you study. It's a growing field and the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly illustrated the importance of public health in the world!
I think it's important to remember you are not what you study. There are so many options for things you can do in life with your career, and you can also do multiple things at once. Find something you are passionate about and work on designing the life you love. I do many different things in my work and studies and resist the notion that just because I am a doctor I should focus on one thing. I think being open to opportunities and learning skills outside of your field will also help you grow in your profession in new and creative ways.