Alumni Q&A: Professor Devi Sridhar (Florida & Wolfson 2003)
Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?
I’m working on a couple of projects now: the first is on COVID recovery and preparing for the next pandemic. The second is a book project which is a broad take on how we can do better in global health and what we’ve learned about better health in the past half century. And of course doing my academic roles of teaching, research and advisory roles to governments.
What are you passionate about?
I’m currently quite passionate about fitness and exercise. After thinking about it for too long I did my personal training qualifications so that I can teach individual and group fitness. I think we underestimate how beneficial physical activity is to our mental health and our overall well-being. And it fits with my larger population interest in how we can create healthier societies.
Who inspires you and why?
Right now I’m pretty inspired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - she’s managed to achieve quite a lot of policy changes while in power in order to improve life for those living in New Zealand and in that area of the world.
What was your Rhodes Scholar experience like?
I had a fantastic Rhodes Scholar experience - I loved visiting Rhodes House, and also getting to know the other Rhodes Scholars as friends and colleagues. I used the time to study hard, read widely, travel often and broaden my mind. Oxford is a special place to be a student also given the range of people who come to visit and give lectures.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship?
I think just to go for it - there’s a lot of rejection in life and the only way to move forward is to keep going, keep trying and if a path closes, try to find another path forward. I feel incredibly lucky to have received a scholarship- and it’s helped me do the work I’ve done over the past almost 20 years. I was a scholar in 2003!
Professor Devi Sridhar holds the Chair in Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh. Her most recent book, Preventable, tells the extraordinary story of COVID-19 and how global politics shape our health.