Careers: How MA Medical Anthropology aided my role as a Global Health Communications Consultant

Sarah Walton-Smith is a Global Health Communications Consultant who has extensive experience working in global health PR, communications and marketing for various organisations, both in house and as a consultant. Sarah studied MA Medical Anthropology and graduated in 2006. We got in touch to find out what she's been up to since then, and how her programme has helped her career.

Sarah Walton-Smith Headshot

Could you give us a brief overview of your current role and what you do on a day-to-day basis? 

As a Global PR/Communications Health Consultant, I lead, support and mentor communications teams to develop strategic plans with clear objectives based on insights and research. This is often within a PR/Communications agency. The tactics of the plan then need to be implemented within an agreed timeline and budget. The client might be, for example, an international health tech company, or any company working in the health, nutrition or lifestyle medicine sectors. For several years, I also worked for the world leading food company Danone, pioneering their health marketing communications in the area of probiotics and nutritional supplements. 

Why did you choose to study MA Medical Anthropology at SOAS? 

I've always been fascinated and passionate about all areas of integrative health and lifestyle medicine. Many cultures embrace natural and complementary approaches to health in a greater capacity than here in the UK. The MA Medical Anthropology programme offered at SOAS provided the best modules to facilitate my interest in African and Middle Eastern natural medicine and health, illness and healing from cross-cultural perspectives. I based my dissertation on ethnographic research which I conducted in Morocco, which was such an incredible experience. 

How do you feel that your studies at SOAS helped to prepare you for this role? 

When applying, SOAS was in the Top 25 for world reputation, according to the Times Higher Education. I wanted to study my MA Medical Anthropology at an institution with a great global reputation and excellence, as well as expertise in Africa and the Middle East. My roles have always embraced global communications and I love working with teams integrating different cultures. 

What did you enjoy the most about studying at SOAS? Do you have a particular favourite memory? 

Studying and meeting students from so many different countries was wonderful. In November 2022, I met a Swedish friend from my course in Sicily. We've remained great friends and collaborate on varying projects in global health. My favourite memory will always be immersing myself in the wonderful SOAS Library and the joy of reading so many fascinating international books and journals. Plus, I loved singing as a member of the awesome SOAS world music choir

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to get into your field of work? 

Passion first… And reach out! Also, make sure you network with people working in your areas of interest. I am a SOAS Mentor and it's a great way of supporting and empowering new SOAS students.

Did you access the SOAS Careers Service whilst you were a student? If so, which ones and how did they help prepare you for life after university? 

Yes, the SOAS Careers Service was a superb resource. They're always open to thought provoking conversations, suggestions and signposting areas to research work opportunities and further study.

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