Dr Sophie Francoise Valeix, PhD, University of Sussex
While studying veterinary medicine in France, I develop a strong interest for medical anthropology with an understanding that health and disease of humans and other animals are constructed, debated and politicised notions. This is why, after my training as a veterinarian epidemiologist, I explored further the social dimensions of global public health issues and interventions through a project in Thailand researching village-based social networks around poultry disease surveillance. I then worked on worldwide knowledge flows in collaborative research on Nipah virus (virus transmitted to people by bats) for the dissertation of my Masters degree in Science Policy.
I recently finished my doctorate at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, and should graduate in January 2019. My doctoral research was an ethnographic study of the integration of public health professionals into design of national health policies and services in Ghana with a focus on veterinarians and zoonotic diseases. In my thesis, I examine the veterinary culture and norms through vets’ perspectives, daily practices in local contexts and social networks, and confront these to the international call for collaboration between vets, other medical as well as non-medical professions. I argue that professional cultures influence the potential of interventions on global public health issues in complex ways.
Mental health and academia
My interest and commitment to research on student mental health is grounded in my personal experience. In the course of my PhD programme, I suffered from anxiety and depression, and, while coping with these, I developed an understanding of the profound effects mental distress can have on postgraduate students and a strong interest for helping fellow students manage their own wellbeing and mental health. Beginning in 2015, I have participated in or led conferences, workshops focus groups and social media forums on student mental health. My last event was an exhibition that I organised in my department on the theme Mental Health and Creative Arts and in which I gathered friends and colleagues to reflect on Art and Crafts as a way of coping with mental struggles in a university workplace.
I now work part-time as a Mental Health Project Coordinator within the project 'Understanding the mental health of doctoral researchers' at the doctoral school of the University of Sussex. I have studied and worked for 14 years in universities of different countries/education systems and different departments (natural and social sciences). This allowed me to compare and contrast university and discipline norms, practices and values amongst different cultures as well as commonalities, which include an increase in young researchers’ stress and precarity.
Call for collaboration – I now want to bring my knowledge and practical experience of medical anthropology methods/approaches and my mental health interests together. For this, I intend to pursue post-doctoral research on mental health and academic culture in early career researchers, and I am developing a research proposal (Sept 2018-January 2019). If you are interested in collaborating with me or know who could/would be, please contact me at: email@example.com
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