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22 May

King’s Heroes: Thank you to our amazing OV community

Each Thursday at 8pm we continue to join in with neighbours across the country to applaud our incredible key workers.

This week we focus on the amazing work OV Dr Jenny Hall (W 96-98) is doing as she has returned to work at Public Health England especially to help with the crisis.

Jenny writes, “On a normal day, a throw away comment by the Prime Minister would have no impact on me whatsoever. But since I have returned to work at Public Health England (PHE) as part of the Coronavirus response that is exactly what can happen. Usually I am an Associate Professor in Women’s Health at UCL. I spend my time conducting research, mostly on various aspects of women’s reproductive health, trying to influence policy, and teaching students from BSc level to PhD supervision. However, my background is in medicine and I specialised in public health so once the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear I volunteered to return to PHE to help in whatever way I could. To begin with I worked in the London Coronavirus Response Cell. Here we would advise people from a range of settings, anything from a GP practice or a care home to a prison or a homeless shelter, on how to manage cases or outbreaks of Coronavirus, as well as field the odd enquiry from the public about whether their dog with a cough was of interest to science.

One day a chance encounter with an old colleague working in the same building, who knew that my PhD was partly in epidemiology, led to me being invited to join the Epidemiological Cell. While far less glamorous, or risky, than being on the front line, as many of my friends are, after one day in the ‘EpiCell’ I knew I had found the place where my skills would be most useful. The figures that you have been seeing every day on the number of cases and deaths in England? We produce those, so for a few hours every day I am one of the first people to know these numbers. It’s intense, fast paced and ever-changing work as the pandemic evolves, our knowledge improves and the government need information to inform all their decisions. The numbers that the EpiCell produces are shared with modellers and many others to investigate the progress of the epidemic and how implementing or lifting restrictions might change that, so although it might not be a widely recognised role, it really is crucial that it is done and done well.

Despite the occasional moment of imposter syndrome (I hope none of the King’s maths teachers recall that I actually failed my A-level statistics module the first-time round!), I feel very lucky to be able to make a small contribution to efforts to control the pandemic, and honoured to be working with so many amazingly skilled, intelligent and dedicated professionals at PHE.