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IHTM alumna Priya Bala with the mud-men of Asaro, Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highlands Province.IHTM alumna Priya Bala with the mud-men of Asaro, Papua New Guinea's Eastern Highlands Province.

Priya Bala (IHTM 2019)

Clinical Governance and Standards Specialist, Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Papua New Guinea


Priya grew up in Malaysia, where she trained as a paediatrician and worked in emergency paediatrics. She was also a surveyor with the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH). Alongside clinical practice, Priya’s interests lay in humanitarian work, linking with other like-minded people to work with disadvantaged populations, particularly institutionalised children, and refugees. She also had the opportunity to work with the Malaysian Field Hospital in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh and with indigenous populations in interior Borneo.

After completing IHTM, Priya has been working in Papua New Guinea (PNG), spending nearly three years with WHO before moving, in July 2023, to work on an Asian Development Bank project with PNG’s National Department of Health (NDOH). Priya’s responsibilities include providing technical advice to the NDOH and Provincial Health Authorities on implementation of clinical governance systems, development of the National Accreditation Programme and the revision and implementation of the National Referral Pathways. She also works with clinicians to strengthen clinical capacity within national hospitals. Her work with WHO previously revolved around advising the PNG government on COVID-19 clinical measures, strengthening oxygen capacity in the country and developing a national Emergency Medical Team.

The opportunity to work in PNG came about because of Priya’s IHTM placement and dissertation with WHO, where she reviewed COVID-19 preparedness in vulnerable, high density settings with a focus on certain settlement areas in Manila.

Priya felt that she could be more effective by working to strengthen health systems to try and prevent the health problems she was treating. IHTM appealed to her as a means to transition to working full time in international development and particularly in resource limited settings.

Many aspects of the IHTM syllabus have proven invaluable in Priya’s work following the MSc. The Paradigms and Tools for Global Health modules allowed her to critically appraise data and be familiar with epidemiological concepts which was essential in her work in the COVID-19 space. The Challenges and Changes sessions in International Health introduced her to the dynamics of international agencies and assisted her in thinking innovatively when she had to work in a country with multiple resource and structural challenges. The Global Health Research and Practice exposed her to health economics and programme evaluation activities, aspects of which were used in daily work responsibilities. Experiences such as debating at the Oxford Union and presenting policy briefs at the Houses of Parliament were also essential as confidence building activities when having to meet senior government officials and other development partners.  

The last word
IHTM created the pathway for me to transition into working full time in international development in limited resource contexts, which was where I always wanted to be. It has given me the opportunity to work in Papua New Guinea; to experience first-hand its breath-taking beauty and its warm people whilst utilizing the clinical skills garnered previously and consolidating that with the public health and international development knowledge that the IHTM programme equipped me with. It was a privilege to work with the dedicated faculty of this programme and to be acquainted with 26 classmates from all over the world.