Three years since she graduated from the ISGlobal-University of Barcelona Master of Global Health, Sofia Bandomia from Mozambique, has developed a career in strategic health communications.
What were the highlights of your studies at ISGlobal?
The simple idea of leaving my job, going to Barcelona and start studying again was thrilling! But I also realized quickly that it was the best decision I could have made
The simple idea of leaving my job, going to Barcelona and start studying again was thrilling! But I also realized quickly that it was the best decision I could have made. I must confess I was very impressed with the curriculum and the course structure, the whole vision of the global health was very well configured.
Coping with so many different teachers and the clinical contents was a daily challenge that really got me moving. Also, interacting with different students from different countries, disciplines, experiences and backgrounds made the whole process very enriching and interesting. Each day was a learning experience and the format of the classes was very appealing – we had long reading and writing assignments which helped us gain a deeper understanding of the subject.
Additionally, the master was paired with regular seminars and events related to the content of the lessons, and experts in the field of Global Health were always invited. I was delighted to have medical doctors, MSF staff, politicians, WHO staff, researchers, anthropologists, and teachers from other universities as mentors. The academic support team was always there for us and provided timely support. Let’s not forget that living in Barcelona is really fun and I didn’t miss a cultural event, or popular party, together with my course fellows.
How has your career developed since you graduated?
The master’s degree represented a leap in my career
The master’s degree represented a leap in my career. Before moving to Spain I was an HIV project manager. Working in the field and implementing a vast community intervention, I acquired a lot of experience not only in the management of specific health issues but also getting to know the reality of the country and the main gaps of our local health system. Serving those most at need has always been a solid criterium to lead my direction.
When I went back to Mozambique, I quickly had a few job offers. I joined Jhpiego as National Advisor for Health Communication and had the opportunity to develop very interesting and relevant Social Behaviour Change strategies and materials in coordination with the Ministry of Health. Working with PEPFAR initiatives with a clinical implementing partner gave me an overall vision.
Shortly after, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs offered me to become the Technical Lead for a new local project, which I accepted. Currently I overlook the technical aspect of a comprehensive 90-90-90 global health program, including: HIV community counselling and testing, linkage to health care and ART, prevention, HIV treatment literacy, VMMC demand creation, Nutrition, male engagement in HIV services etc.
How important is it to develop a strong professional network?
Because we work with development, the professional network is a must– there is no development in silence or without sharing
It is fundamental. People working in Global Health in developing countries are a small community, and we end up knowing and touching base with many implementing partners, NGO’s and Government personnel, including donors. I believe it has been critical in keeping me updated technically and for exchanging experiences. In our field of work there isn’t much to be invented, but a lot to be reinvented, so it’s crucial that we share experiences, make field trip visits, attend conferences, dialogues, meetings, etc. Because we work with development, the professional network is a must– there is no development in silence or without sharing.
In addition, when you are properly connected you always know who, when and what to reach in order to improve your performance or to get support and information – this works the other way around too! You are also consulted at some point, making the whole thing very exciting!
What drives your passion for global health?
Even though global health is complex, in every little thing I find a purpose and see a benefit to someone’s life
I was born in Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, and always had a dream of becoming a communications specialist. Very soon by understanding (or not) what was going on in my country, with my people, I realized the need to do something relevant – besides personal gratification and a salary. So after working around six years in the private sector, I felt the need for change, and that was when I moved to development programmes and I realized I found my passion and life purpose. Getting in touch with reality, communities, and rural sites, made me understand that everything I did led me to this. Even though global health is complex, in every little thing I find a purpose and see a benefit to someone’s life….and I can say with gratitude that today I have touched plenty of lives.
What are your plans or goals for the future?
I leave my options open and let my passion drive me – along with balancing a healthy family life
I plan to keep working hard in Global Health programmes, supporting my local health system, coordinating teams, furthering my expertise and technical capacity, and performing the best I can. Naturally, the pathways I am following come with increasing responsibility and the need to build more skills. I intend to do a few more project management and technical coordination activities and then maybe embrace consultancy challenges. I leave my options open and let my passion drive me – along with balancing a healthy family life.