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Profile: Melvin Obadha

Profile: Melvin Obadha - news

Melvin Obadha (2019, DPhil Population Health), Junior Dean

Melvin, Oxford-Radcliffe Graduate Scholar, reads for a DPhil in Population Health (2019) and is a Junior Dean at Univ’s main site. Prior to commencing his DPhil, Melvin worked as a choice modeller at the Health Economics Research Unit of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Nairobi, Kenya. Melvin holds an MSc in Global Health and Development from the University College London (UCL) and a BSc from Kenyatta University in Kenya. In his spare time, Melvin enjoys rowing, swimming and cycling. He previously enjoyed a prolific rugby union career that earned him a call up to the Kenya national rugby sevens team. He is currently the ambassador of Kenyan alumni of the International Student House, London.

Why did you undertake a DPhil? What is the current state/direction of your research?
I never really considered doing a DPhil to be honest as I always had dreams of joining the Navy and captaining a warship into battle. I initially wanted a career in the military. But I got interested in influencing policy around universal health coverage and contributing to academia after seeing a lot of things not working. UHC means that everyone, irrespective of socio-economic circumstances, has access to quality health services whenever they need them and do not face any financial barriers when accessing these services. However, countries cannot afford to provide all needed health services as resources are finite. This is evident with Covid-19 as a lot of countries have to prioritise, choosing between treating Covid-19 and other conditions such as cancers and mental health.

My DPhil research explores priority setting practices for the achievement of Universal Health Coverage in Low- and Middle-Income countries. These countries must prioritise health interventions using multiple criteria such as costs, effectiveness of interventions, severity of illness, and equity among others. I intend to foster a culture of evidence-based decision making so that health priorities are not misplaced in the quest to achieving universal health coverage. I still have work left to do in my DPhil.

How do you think you have changed since walking through Univ’s doors for the first time?
I’ve grown a lot as a person. Being at Univ and interacting with staff and students (both undergrads and postgrads) has made me see things from a different perspective I never thought possible. It’s opened my mind.

Why did you apply to be a Junior Dean? What would you like students to know about the role?
I was searching for leadership opportunities and found the Junior Dean role to be a perfect fit. I do work around Covid-19, welfare, and decanal. It is a great role, one that I enjoy doing. We have to put on different hats (a welfare one and decanal) a lot of times. One moment you are responding to a welfare issue and the next, you quickly have to put your decanal hat.

What does being the ambassador of Kenyan alumni of the International Student House involve?
The international students house (ISH) is a student accommodation in London founded by Mary Trevelyan in 1965. It brings young people from different walks of life and fosters international friendships. I used to live at ISH as a student at University College London. Alumni of ISH are called GOATS. I’m the GOATs ambassador for Kenya. My role involves coordinating the engagement with GOATS based in Kenya. We have meetings to reminisce our times at ISH. It’s always good to hear stories from those who were there in the 70s and so on.

When did you start playing rugby? What are some of your highlights?
I got into rugby in my first year of high school. I did watch my uncle play as a kid, but my interests were in swimming, basketball, and football. My sister had also tried to encourage me to try out rugby. It wasn’t until high school that I found myself in the rugby field, I think as a form of punishment. Hahaha. I can’t clearly remember. A couple of others and myself were sent to the rugby field as a lenient form of punishment for making noise in class. Hahaha. I fell in love with the game after that. I started out as a second row but moved to backrow in Uni and continued with club rugby. I mainly played as a blind side flanker as I was a good tackler but could play as an open side flanker or number eight. My highlight was getting the call up to the Kenya rugby sevens team. Sevens rugby is huge in Kenya as the national team is a regular fixture in the world rugby sevens series.

After four surgeries on my right knee, I now stick to watching rugby from the stands or on TV. I carry my injuries to this day. My form when rowing at Univ is so poor because of it. But I do love cycling especially on country lanes within Oxfordshire.

Have you faced any challenges in your life that you are happy to share here? If so, how did you cope with them?
I have faced many challenges in life. Many too personal to publicly share on this platform. But I draw a lot of inspiration on facing challenges from this quote by Sylvester Stallone in the boxing themed movie Rocky Balboa:

“You, me, or [no one] is [going to] hit as hard as life. But [it’s not] about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” Sylvester Stallone in the movie Rocky Balboa.

How do you feel about the celebration of Black History Month?
It’s important to celebrate and commemorate Black History Month.

Describe Univ in three words.
The greatest college.

Published: 18 October 2021

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