Hi everyone, my name is Hannah, and I’m a new content producer for the Dementia Researcher. I am so excited to be welcomed as part of such an inspiring network and look forward to sharing more about my research, PhD progress and professional experiences over the next few months. I really hope that my upcoming blogs are insightful, I will begin by introducing a little bit about myself and providing some background about my motivations for working in the area of dementia research.
So I’m Hannah. I was born and raised in Manchester, UK. My father, however, was born in Pakistan, and my mother spent the majority of her childhood there too. My mum moved from the UK to Pakistan when she was only 2 years old and returned over 7 years later. My dad didn’t move to the UK till he was ~10 years old, however both of my grandfather’s had already moved to the UK for working opportunities. This makes me a third generation migrant, and a proud British-Asian. I often think about how scary and daunting this experience must have been for my grandparents, especially coming from such different origins. Since my grandparent’s initial leaps, my family is mainly here, spread across the UK.
Both of my parents are from distinct rural areas in Pakistan, both of which are abundant in beautiful scenery, but (certainly at the time) limited in resources, access and education. It is for this reason that it is notable that my parents, particularly my father, are of great motivation for me in my career and pursuits for further education.
My father was the first person of our extended family to achieve a university degree, which has been inspiring for all members of the family (…I know, what a trend setter!), but especially so for myself. It was my grandfather’s constant encouragement that enabled him to achieve this. As he did not have any education at all himself, it was something that he had struggled without, therefore placing extra value on it and feeling it’s importance. So, with this my father studied medicine and ever since has had a success and fruitful career as a physician. Some of his most striking achievements are the work he has done as Clinical Lead for Mental Health in Greater Manchester. Of which, championing local initiatives and change for the management and care of dementia was always at the forefront. Not only has my dad been my driving force for my education, but he has also truly inspired my interests and passion for working in dementia.
My career path hasn’t been so linear and is ever evolving, I think that’s what makes it so exciting for myself. My interests in mental health however started early, during my A-Levels, where I studied Psychology. I had a strong desire to continue studying Psychology at University level, however my parent’s placed extra emphasis on achieving a vocational degree. I think most Asian readers can probably relate… it was Medicine, Dentistry or Pharmacy right? Well, I didn’t like the sound of blood and to be frank – physical contact, so Pharmacy it was!
I studied a Master’s of Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham. It was a very challenging and diverse course, and honestly some of the best days of my life! We learnt about everything pharmacy, and I mean that… from the social skills required for clinical practice, to the precise aerodynamics of the particles in an inhaler which ensure that it reaches your lungs properly, we were examined on it all. It wasn’t until my third year of undergraduate study, where I was going on placements in both hospital and community settings, that I realised pharmacy wasn’t exactly for me. Coincidentally, and perhaps by fate, this was at the same time that Professor Rachel Elliott was running a module on Health Economics for MPharm students. This module truly gripped me, and at the end of the module series I first properly introduced myself to Rachel to learn more about careers in health economics. It wasn’t until years later that I would understand the significance of this simple act.
I completed my pharmacy degree, went onto do my pre-registration year and qualified as a community pharmacist. I still practice as a community pharmacist from time to time (if you ever see me behind the counter, say hi…!). I value doing this to keep my clinical skills intact. After this, I explored several alternative career options, which I may too blog about in due course. However, after emailing Professor Elliott and receiving great encouragement, I went onto study a Master’s in health economic and health policy at the University of Birmingham. Another challenging course, but again some amazing memories where I met some incredible people and lifelong friends.
After graduating from the MSc, I looked for roles in health economics and a position was being advertised for a Research Associate at the University of Manchester (UoM) in the health economics department. It wasn’t until my interview that I knew this position was working alongside… yep you guessed it Professor Elliott! I got the role. During my time at the UoM I worked alongside some of the most interesting people on some of the most innovating research projects, the first of which was a large multinational clinical trial for people with dementia and their caregivers. On this project, I worked with Dr Elizabeth Camacho, and it is to her that I owe so much of my learning and development.
I was at long last reunited with my original interest of studying mental health! I knew I would get there eventually mum and dad (hehe). I worked at the UoM for a couple of years on several projects before enrolling onto a PhD programme at The University of Sheffield within the School of Health and Related Research. And here I am… nearly one year into my PhD in dementia research and truly enjoying every moment of it (so far…). My PhD research title is “Optimising quality of life estimation for dementia economic evaluations”.
In my subsequent blogs I will discuss my PhD research topic in detail, including the theory and methodologies I am using, but also pragmatic aspects like writing a report and submitting requests for sensitive data. I hope that this content will be useful for other PhD candidates that need a little advise. I will also discuss my experiences of working on dementia trials, working as a researcher (which is quite different to being a PhD student) as well as in pharmacy, where patient care and communication is the forefront.
I hope that you enjoyed my first ever blog, it was entirely personal and actually quite emotional write. I hope that my future blogs will be insightful for you and be of helpful contribution to the Dementia Researcher.
Thanks for tuning in, Hannah.
Hannah Hussain  is a PhD Student in Health Economics at The University of Sheffield. As a proud third generation migrant and British-Asian, her career path has been linear and ever evolving, originally qualifying as a Pharmacist in Nottingham, then Health Economics in Birmingham. Her studies have opened a world into Psychology, Mental Health and other areas of health, and with that and personal influences she found her passion for dementia.