'I want to use data analytics to inform healthcare decision-making...'
Bachelor of Science in Geography
Public Health Information Analyst, Institute of Environmental Science and Research
Briony’s time at UC began when she moved from Auckland to study Natural Resources Engineering, then switching to a BSc in Geography, before a filler 200-level health geography course led her to pursue a career in public health. She ended up studying a Master of Spatial Analysis for Public Health (MSAPH), an applied degree combing public health data analysis with GIS technologies.
‘UC has a brilliant social environment, and it was very well resourced for health geography. It’s small enough that you can establish yourself as an individual, be seen and heard. At the same time, it has a big enough network of well-connected people to provide good opportunities for personal growth and professional development,’ she says.
Briony found the MSAPH multifaceted approach to be rewarding. A combination of courses and work placement enabled her to draw on perspectives from across UC departments and health industry stakeholders. Support from UC staff who helped her and other students find relevant projects and work opportunities.
‘The structure of this programme offered scope to work across different fields of study, draw connections between them, upskill on technical abilities, and gain a lot of contextual information and workplace skills.’
Briony got a job as an analyst with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) after graduating, which involves ‘working closely with epidemiologists, public health physicians, IT developers, and medical lab staff to collect national disease surveillance data and communicate this information’.
‘During pandemics, I work with ESR’s Health Intelligence and Informatics teams to design and test new national disease notification processes,’ she says.
She attributes her success at work to the foundations she learnt at UC and the project-based courses offered.
‘The technical background in statistics and GIS I acquired through undergrad is a foundation I fall back on often,’ she says. ‘The 400-level health science courses in the MSAPH were also awesome for understanding data processes in the health sector. At the end of it, I came out with a thorough understanding of a highly specialised area of study.’
Briony says she’s grateful for taking the plunge in choosing the MSAPH, but her first leap was when she moved to Christchurch.
‘I lived in Rochester and Rutherford Hall for first year. It was the best thing I could have done for myself, moving down from Auckland to a new city with no friends or family. I felt at home in Christchurch so quickly, I couldn’t believe it!’
Knowing how demanding university and work can be, Briony made time for herself and took up activities through UC clubs.
‘While at UC, I took up lifting weights and I’ve never looked back. I became very involved in UC Women’s Weightlifters, competed in several powerlifting meets, and dabbled in bodybuilding – sounds intense, but the routine and discipline kept me sane(ish) throughout my studies. Tramping club was a good community as well.’
Like many students, Briony’s path at University and finding her passion has been unconventional. Now she finds herself exactly where she wants to be, doing things with a greater purpose.
‘For the duration of my career in the health sector, I want to use data analytics to inform healthcare decision-making and encourage equitable access to health services. On a more personal wavelength, I aim to be fulfilled in my work and contribution to society, while still having other things happening in life.’