What led you to work with Médecins Sans Frontières?
I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t heard about Médecins Sans Frontières. As a medical student in Melbourne in the 1990s, I experienced the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Australia. Globally, it was a terrifying disease, and when I saw that people with HIV/AIDS were dying from new viruses I decided I would specialise in infectious diseases. I met colleagues who had worked with Médecins Sans Frontières, and their humanity and dedication solidified my desire to do humanitarian work.
What does an epidemiologist do?
As in the movie Contagion [Ed: a 2011 release], an epidemiologist is like a disease detective. Epidemiology is a sub-speciality of public health medicine, looking at patterns of disease in large populations of people. This can include chronic disease like heart disease and cancers, but my interest lies in infectious disease epidemiology – particularly in outbreaks, where the work involves finding out where the outbreak started and where it has spread, so that it can be controlled and stopped.