Jérôme, scientist at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment

Jérôme Lock-Wah-Hoon, 2018 alumni for the master’s programme Global Health (GH), started the programme as a Biomedical Sciences bachelor with a hands-on experience in global health. Between his bachelor and master, Jérôme was active as a medical laboratory scientist in Sierra Leone fighting the Ebola outbreak.

During his time in Sierra Leone, Jérôme noticed that many processes, not directly related to health, had an effect on the course of the Ebola outbreak. "As a life scientist, I didn’t have a proper understanding of important processes such as social determinants of health, ecosystems or international relations." Jérôme became curious about the fundamental role these underlying factors play in public health and found out, as he cleverly states; "health isn’t just the absence of disease".

When Jérôme returned home, he tried to process his new findings about health. That’s when a friend of his, one of the first GH alumni, suggested the programme. "As I learned more about Maastricht University and the Global Health programme, I noticed whereas Biomedical Sciences provides a very zoomed-in lens looking at the fundamental levels of biology, Global Health zooms out to an international framework of health. Those were the insights I was looking for." To upskill his knowledge, Jérôme started the programme.

Because of his experience, Jérôme saw the teaching staff as peers. "All students are given the flexibility to focus on topics that they find interesting. I could express my insights that I gained from previous experiences such as the Ebola outbreak, which led to fun discussions even about topics outside of the curriculum."

Jérôme still recommends Global Health to other students. "It helps knowing what you want to learn and how you want to apply these new teachings, because then you’re able to engage with the global health concepts in a more precise way."

Jérôme is now a scientist at RIVM (the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) which works towards a healthy population living in a sustainable, safe and healthy environment. RIVM pursues those goals through independent scientific research. They identify the research that is needed and conduct studies accordingly, providing advice to the government, to professionals and to the members of the public.

"I was looking for a career at the boundary between science and policy. For me, RIVM is the right spot. The projects that are tackled here are also very diverse." Each day is different, working on as many projects as Jérôme does. "All of my projects are grouped into three domains: infectious diseases, biosafety and -security, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)."

In the first domain infectious diseases, Jérôme provides his expertise on laboratory preparedness and response to high-threat pathogens, such as COVID-19. "We are developing innovative tools that can be used on the international landscape and we connect a lot with the United Nations on that domain."

Then there is biosafety and -security where Jérôme provides expert guidance on the safe handling, transportation, and disposal of infectious materials. "But I also look at the prevention of for example the misuse of high threat pathogens that could be used with bad intentions."

The third domain of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is Jérôme’s favourite because it has an environmental impact. "Countless people have to make do with unsafe, contaminated water that causes disease or even death. The WASH programmes are critical for preventing the spread of infectious diseases and improving clean drinking water and sanitation. We have several projects running in Central-Asia and East-Africa. I ensure that our WASH projects are well integrated in the existing infrastructure of these regions."

As a medical laboratory scientist, Jérôme had a lot of lab experience. Because of the Global Health programme, he is now able to translate the outcomes of laboratory medicine and research into global health policies, throughout these three domains.

Looking back at his year as a Global Health student, Jérôme remembers the simple things like going for coffee after a lecture with his classmates. He still keeps in touch with the friends he made during his time at UM. In particular, Jérôme recalls the unique blend of history and culture during his student life in Maastricht. "Every day felt like a new adventure. From exploring the historic city to enjoying a night out with friends, Maastricht provided a unique atmosphere of being the perfect backdrop for creating lasting memories and forming lifelong bonds. If you’re seeking a dynamic, colourful, and enriching student experience, Maastricht is the place for you. Just look for a place to live before you arrive!"