Interview - Dr Suneela Mehta

Doctor Suneela Mehta Public Health

Can you please describe your typical day?

At present, I am working at Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS). Any particular day could involve being part of an outbreak investigation, following up disease notifications, or making community visits. The latter can include site visits for contaminated land or other hazardous substance issues, healthy housing assessments, investigating business-related smoking complaints or other public health complaints, and experience at the Mangere Refugee Health Centre. There are also registrar teaching sessions, in-house training symposiums, the opportunity to become involved in writing submissions regarding topical issues, on-call handover meetings, and completing project work. Registrars are encouraged to become involved in any interesting learning opportunities that arise, so training experiences can be quite varied from week to week. I am also an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Auckland Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, so a typical day may also involve preparing journal articles outside of work hours, or speaking engagements related to research.

What are the types of cases you typically see?

In a public health unit, there are a wide range of issues that arise – from communicable disease control issues relating to notifiable diseases such as measles and pertussis, to environmental health issues such as investigating contaminated landsites, to health promotion issues such as addressing obesogenic environments. However, public health is primarily an office-based speciality, so there is little direct patient contact.

What do you like about working in the Auckland Region? 

The Auckland region is a fantastic place to train because of the diversity of learning opportunities available. The registrar group is tight-knit and there is a great sense of collegiality. The public health community in Auckland (as in the rest of the country) is hugely committed and passionate about the work that they do which is very infectious.  

How many teaching hours do you have a week?

At ARPHS, there are fortnightly registrar teaching sessions as well as journal clubs and monthly organisation-wide training forums. There is also one day set aside per month for registrar-organised training days where a range of speakers are invited to present to the registrar group. In addition, there are national training days led by the New Zealand College of Public Health medicine, and the opportunity to attend training workshops and conferences. 

What opportunities do you have for professional development?

There a number of professional development opportunities including Annual Scientific Meetings, conferences, training workshops (covering areas such as  leadership, media training, project management and the Treaty of Waitangi), national training days organised by the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine and monthly registrar-organised training sessions. There is also the opportunity to become involved in a range of positions within the College (such as policy, education and regional representatives) so that registrar perspectives are incorporated into the operation and policy positions of the College

What interested you about this specialty?

I love the broad scope of public health –from policy to health management to academia to working in a public health unit to independent consultancy – so the opportunity to individualise a career path is immense. Focusing on promoting health and preventing disease and the ability to influence the health of whole populations is incredibly satisfying. A lot of public health work involves working collaboratively with people from a range of occupation backgrounds, including other medical specialists. The opportunity to have work-life balance is also high, and part-time training is possible within this speciality.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time for leisure activities?

I am training part-time and have a wide range of interests outside of work including spending time at the beach, art-house movies, visiting Taranaki where I grew up and looking after my two children.

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