Hello from rainy Oxford! I hope everyone in San Marino is doing well; I just wanted to provide you with a little update on my studies and time across the pond so far!
I am currently living at St. Catherine’s College (which is one of Oxford’s dormitories that I was assigned to) that was recently renovated. There are a few other Harvard students and a bunch of Americans living in St. Catherine’s, and having them around makes it feel a little bit more like home. Time has flown by, and our induction and matriculation this past week along with a bunch of other formal dinners and events allow me to be immersed in the historical tradition and culture of Oxford.
Oxford itself is beautiful, and I am trying to get used to the sprawling nature of the campus. On the first day of class, I walked an hour to the buildings where my classes are held. After this trek, I immediately went to a bike shop and am now trying to get used to cycling and traffic on the other side of the road! We had a Rotary Scholars at Oxford orientation the other day and it was great to meet some 30+ scholars from all over the world studying here. They mentioned that Rotary is spending over $1 million on scholarships here alone, and that even the vice chancellor of Oxford was once a Rotary scholar!
Currently, I am learning the basic foundations of epidemiology and statistics, so I can be skeptical of bias and other confounding factors that often plague public health research. I am learning the difference between prevalence, incidence, rates, risks, etc., which allow me to have a more nuanced and detailed understanding of how world health organizations and other researchers report results. In addition, I have learned how mortality trends have changed over the past 100 years and if/how we can half mortality in the next couple of decades. Because my education thus far had been very US centric, it has been great to expand the boundaries of my thinking when analyzing global healthcare systems and what issues plague different communities. I was fascinated to see how much alcoholism contributed to the volatility of mortality in Russia, and how successful anti-alcohol campaigns contributed a tremendous rise in life expectancy throughout history. Meanwhile, I have also learned how smoking cessation has greatly increased life expectancy over the past few decades, providing insight on how e-cigs that are now so rampant among youth in the US may reverse the gains we have made.
It has been fascinating talking to all the other students in the course; many of them are already medical doctors, and we come from all over the world. Each student brings a unique and interesting perspective that a place like Oxford can bring together. I’ve already gotten into plenty of conversations about why prices for drugs and other medical services in the US are so high and have gotten their perspectives on the pros and cons of their health systems.
One of the highlights of these early weeks has been matriculation: an event at Oxford that formally inducts us as students of the university. During the ceremony, we wear a sort of uniform called a “sub fusc,” a quirky tradition (one of the many I am getting used to) in which all students wear a black gown, white shirt, and a ribbon to formal events. Another fun place that I have visited are the botanical gardens on Oxford’s campus. Although not nearly as large (or colorful) as the Huntington Library, there are several greenhouses home to some unique plants.
That is it for now! Thanks again for all the support, I feel so lucky to be a part of this wonderful community.