CMB Profile: Zhang Zhang
Zhang Zhang graduated from Peking University Health Science Center in June 2013, where she earned a double major in Biomedical English and Sociology. As a LSHTM-CMB Scholarship winner, she will pursue a joint master’s program at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and London School of Economics (LSE) beginning in September 2013.
Q: Why did you choose to study health policy?
A: In 2009 as a college freshman, I undertook a 2500-kilometer bike trip across western China. This was a journey of extremes—through China’s most urbanized streets and isolated villages. This trip brought me face-to-face with the human toll of China’s healthcare system challenges, especially the unbalanced allocation of health resources and inadequate primary care services. Moved especially by the suffering caused by lack of healthcare services in rural areas, I entered the field of healthcare research. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about our nation’s healthcare problems, so I can someday play a role in alleviating these problems at the policy and management levels.
Q: What challenges have you experienced as a young scholar in the field of health systems research?
A: There are a few ways in which I think training of undergraduate students in my field might be improved. First, undergraduate students have difficulty putting theory into practice, because our studies focus on theory rather fieldwork. Another challenge is learning more about different types of health systems. There are some opportunities for students to learn about international experiences and compare these to China’s experience—especially international programs and events—but most of the curriculum still focuses on China. I’m looking forward to learning more about other health systems during my year of study in the UK.
Q: You were recently awarded the LSHTM-CMB Scholarship in Health Policy and Systems Sciences. What advice can you offer potential applicants?
A: I’m honored to be part of this program. I think a successful application requires passion, good preparation, and confidence. It’s important for the applicant to be excited about the program, and to know clearly how she might use what she will learn in the future. In fact, this is often asked during the application process! Second, the applicant needs to be well prepared by having solid foundational knowledge in the field, strong research skills, and excellent communication skills. These preparations indicate that the applicant is ready for an intense academic experience, and for life in another country. Finally, confidence is key to success. Instead of being anxious, I hope applicants will use the application process—especially the interview—as an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and enthusiasm.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about your time at LSHTM?
A: I’m really looking forward to studying in the UK, especially because I’m going to be working on an interdisciplinary program that brings together health studies with economics and finance. The London School has an excellent reputation for high-quality faculty; but beyond interacting with experts, I’m also excited to engage with other young scholars from all over the world. To study health policy and systems in a global context can strengthen my own expertise—I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from my peers! I hope what I learn in LSHTM and LSE will help me enhance the equity and efficiency of health systems in nations with large populations and limited healthcare resources.
Q: What are you looking forward to about living in London?
A: Beyond my studies, I’m looking forward to really experiencing London and its culture. I will go to the theater—I can’t wait to see Romeo and Juliet; visit the British Museum; drink English style tea; and of course, try to spot Prince William and Princess Kate!