HEU Blog July 2023

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Welcome to this month’s HEU News!  It’s all change here in HEU, following the promotion of our previous Head of Unit, Professor Tracy Roberts, to the role of Institute Director for the Institute of Applied Health Research.  You may have heard via social media that Professors Hareth Al-Janabi and Sue Jowett have now taken up the roles of Head of Unit and Deputy Head of Unit, respectively.  We are extremely grateful to Tracy for her leadership of HEU over the last 11.5 years, which was characterised by her wonderful generosity and support.  We are thrilled for Tracy as she takes up her new role.

This issue of HEU news is focused around the topic of promotions, as it’s not just “our” Tracy whose success we are celebrating: we also want to congratulate and celebrate the promotion successes of four of our HEU team: Irina Pokhilenko, James Hall, Jesse Kigozi and Nafsika Afentou.

Finally, we share some reflections from Nienke Graef, who has now completed and submitted her MSc dissertation.  We featured Nienke earlier in the year as she embarked upon the dissertation as a visiting student from Maastricht University in the Netherlands.  We wish Nienke the best of luck for her future career and trust that she will keep in touch.

Recent Promotions

James Hall

James has been part of HEU for nearly four years, working on the WM-Air air pollution project, and also undertaking cost-effectiveness analyses in respiratory and cardiovascular disease. For the WM-Air study he has worked alongside local authorities to produce a public facing Tool (AQ-LAT) to assess the impacts of air pollution and strategies for mitigation upon health and economic costs. The AQ-LAT Tool has provided estimates for recently produced briefing notes for the West Midlands Combined Authority on air pollution and health impacts. James is the module co-coordinator for the two Statistics modules provided as part of the MSc in Health Economics & Health Policy, and also provides modelling support and expertise for the MSc programme. James has been promoted from Grade 7 to Grade 8 Research Fellow.

Jesse Kigozi

Jesse joined HEU in September 2013 as a Research Fellow and an honorary Research Fellow at the Primary Care Centre Versus Arthritis at Keele University. He has an extensive research portfolio of applied research concerning trial-based economic evaluations in musculoskeletal disease, mental health and methodological research in productivity costs.

Jesse currently oversees funded projects concerning various areas such as musculoskeletal conditions, thyroid nodules, limb schaemia and maternal health. He has previously held the role of Assistant Director of teaching and is currently Deputy Director of teaching, for the MSc in Health Economics & Health Policy.

Jesse was recently promoted from an Assistant Professor in health economics to an Associate Professor in health economics.

Nafsika Afentou

Nafsika joined the HEU in 2018 and has been involved in various research projects within social care, public health, clinical trials and, recently, obesity. Nafsika is currently doing research to tackle the wider determinants of obesity as part of the Centre for Economics of Obesity. Particularly, she is exploring the impact of investment in blue/green spaces on physical activity and population health and wellbeing. Nafsika was promoted from Research Associate (Grade 6) to Research Fellow (Grade 7).

Irina Pokhilenko

Irina has been a Research Fellow in HEU since October 2021. She joined the Centre of Economics of Obesity to work on projects related to the wider determinants of obesity. Irina is also involved in teaching on the MSc in Health Economics and Health Policy and in the coordination of the MSc in Public Health. In April 2023, she was promoted from Research Fellow Grade 7 to Grade 8.

Nienke de Graef

My journey completing a dissertation abroad

I have just submitted my dissertation (or thesis) and have had a fantastic time here in Birmingham. The research institute welcomed me with open arms, and I was seen as a colleague. I attended several meetings and seminars and learned a great deal from the team in HEU, through their research and valuable feedback. Emersing myself in this research world has helped me realise that I want to pursue a career in research and I now have a better understanding of how to start out on that path.

My dissertation is a systematic review of the mental health care costs in persons with obesity. Obesity has a significant impact on the world, just as mental health does, so I wanted to help expand knowledge on these topics. The economic impact of any disease is always a significant factor in future policies, so it is nice to know that with my research as a master’s student might help future research and policies to improve healthcare.

Living abroad also brought me a lot of other memorable encounters besides the research world. I have gained a lot of new friends from different nationalities, learned more about British habits, improved my English speaking and writing, and was able to travel all over the UK. On top of this, I have gained more self-sufficiency and am more confident than ever before. I increased my flexibility and adaptability by moving to a new country alone, where I knew nobody, and by putting myself out there to make the most of it. And it paid off big time.

I would do it all over again!

Dissemination & Engagement


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