Briefly, tell us about your background and experience up to this point?
I moved to the UK when I was 18, intending to stay a year, fell in love with London, and have been here ever since. I was born in the States, grew up speaking Swedish, and lived in Geneva as a teenager. I did my first degree at UCL, in physiology, which I loved. I worked in a lab investigating pain pathways, for a few years, learned a lot, and then went to medical school at UCL. I specialised in paediatrics and public health, then became curious about why child health and survival differ so much between countries, and how health systems strengthening can improve outcomes. I did a PhD and eventually became a Consultant at Evelina and Professor at King’s.
What is a typical day at King’s like for you?
I am lucky to be able to combine academic and clinical work, which means I study the problems I see, and try to improve things directly through my research. I run a research group called CHILDS which brings together clinicians and researchers developing interventions to improve outcomes through healthcare and testing them in situ. So, a typical day at King’s is working with clinicians, researchers, and managers, trying to improve health services and population health practice and policy, and embed research into practice. If I’m lucky my day includes time with medical students and postgraduate research students which gives me energy and inspiration. Walking along the river between GSTT and Guy’s is such a bonus of working here. It’s essential for clearing my mind, putting things into perspective, and for time to think.
What do you do with your time outside academia/work?
I like to bake, especially bread and am good at making focaccia and sourdough, my favouorites. I’m less good at Swedish spiced bread, but I’m working on it. Trying new recipes each weekend is a highlight for me, and either an adventure or an exercise in tolerance for my family and friends. I like to read, and usually have at least one fiction and non-fiction book on the go – but lately much more slowly than I’d like. We have two hilarious long-haired dachshunds and a truculent cat who follows us around when we go for walks but pretends not to. We’re lucky to live near several small woods and not too far from Hampstead Heath, so most weekends you’d find me there walking and enjoying nature and quiet. But not cold-water swimming which seems all the rage lately. I like to potter and ponder; in Swedish this is called pyssla. And it’s a great combination of doing something but doing nothing.
Who inspires you most and why?
One person?! There’s an inspiring thread that runs through the women in my family. Fe del Mundo was an outstanding paediatrician and social reformer from the Philippines, and my grandmother’s cousin. Both my grandmothers were brave, generous, and adventurous women. One fled from Russia in the early 20th century, lived in Cuba for a while, then settled in the US, worked and raised children as a single mother when that was rare and even more difficult than it is now. The other moved from the Philippines to Sweden in the 1940s, raised 4 children, then moved to the States where she became a public health nurse. My daughter embodies the intelligence, creativity, courage, and integrity of her ancestors, and she inspires me every day.
What is something positive that happened to you in 2023?
I came of age.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
At work? Completing a PhD after hours.
Favourite London restaurant: Elena’s l’Etoile, in Charlotte Street. Long gone, and much missed.
Favourite book: A Tale of Two Cities.
Favourite scientist: Marie Curie.
One thing you could not go a day without: Coffee.