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Fernando Reis in South America

Fernando Reis (IHTM 2017)

Field Epidemiology Advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 

Fernando was born and brought up in Brazil where he trained as a pharmacist and worked in R&D for new vaccines. In November 2021 he joined MSF, originally as an epidemiology activity manager in Mozambique working on an HIV project. Fernando is now based in Rio de Janeiro providing epidemiological technical support to South American projects, mainly in Venezuela and Brazil. The support includes monitoring and evaluation, operational research, surveillance and emergency response.

Fernando spends a lot of time in the field, understanding the needs of a particular situation so that MSF can build a bespoke solution. Recent projects include emergency nutrition intervention among Yanomami indigenous communities in the Amazon, and supporting the sharing of lessons learned from the MSF experience fighting malaria among rural mining communities in Venezuela, which has amongst the highest malaria rates in the Americas.

Fernando was looking to move away from pharmacy R&D into a public health context and wanted an MSc that would provide the opportunities and training that he needed. Following an internship at Oxford, as an exchange student at the Jenner Institute, he was keen to study at Oxford because of the University’s work with tropical diseases and its international tropical disease network. IHTM also appealed to Fernando because of its practical approach to dealing with public health issues, he felt it went beyond the lab and looked at alternative methodologies which would broaden his experience.

IHTM gave Fernando an introduction to field epidemiology and he knew immediately that he wanted to work in this area. The course content and network also helped him to find out about the opportunities that were available. Fernando took away from IHTM the importance of spending time in the field, getting to understand local problems, perspectives and cultures. He also learnt to consider the intended and unintended consequences of actions and to appreciate the challenges, vulnerabilities and ethics of conflict situations. The soft skills taught by IHTM through the leadership and communication training are something that Fernando continues to use throughout his work, building relationships and learning to understand other people’s perspectives.

The last word
IHTM showed me that there was a career that I could pursue to achieve what I wanted to do - to give back to communities in my country. It opened up opportunities and taught me the skills that set me on the pathway I was looking for.