Dr Olufunke Alaba
December 2014 | Researcher/Lecturer at the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, UCT
I am an Economist with specialization in Health Economics. I am a researcher/lecturer at the Health Economics Unit, the School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town.
1) Briefly describe what your job involves.
My job involves teaching and research of health economics and health policy issues. My job entails application of various Economic principles and tools to understanding and improving health outcomes, observed differentials in health and health outcomes, promoting economic growth and development. In addition to researching the above, I am responsible to pass this knowledge to students through lecturing. Also, my job involves travelling to local and international conferences to present research outcomes.
2) What would a typical day at the office entail?
The first 30minutes of my typical day in the office is spent on administrative works and sorting out emails. After which, depending on whether I have to give presentation(s) (formal or informal), I apply my time to preparing materials for my teaching presentations. I try to take a few minutes break before working on any research work that I am involved with. At around 4pm, I leave the office to take my children home from school.
3) Can you describe the most exciting part of your job?
Economics is a study of human behaviour. Numerical and non-numerical methods can be used to understand the dynamics of people's behaviour; I enjoy applying various numerical/mathematical techniques on data to answer research questions. I also enjoy travelling to conferences to present my research findings.
4) What are some of the challenges you had to face and overcome as a woman in your career?
As a mother of two and whose husband is not usually around, one of my challenges is balancing my home life, my responsibility to my children and my work life. I overcome this by applying an effective time-management system.
5) How did you make your career choice?
My career idea to be a lecturer was inspired by my father who was also a lecturer in the University. To pursue Economics and specialize in health was driven by my passion for science and solving people's problems but unfortunately I have blood phobia so I couldn't study medicine. I therefore pursued a career that was science but at the same time has social ingredients in it (relates to peoples' wellbeing and welfare).
6) What qualifications do you require to work in your field?
You require a degree in Economics and a post-graduate degree in Health Economics or Public Health. Good background in mathematics is required in the study of Economics. The attractiveness of studying Economics is that you are relevant in every sector of the economy. Studying various economic branches (like health, trade, monetary macroeconomics etc.) depending on your interest can open doors to many different careers (in the bank, department of treasury, social development, University, private companies etc.).
7) Can you describe the most important skills you require for this work environment?
Analytical and Communication skills; writing, speaking and capacity for empirical analyses are required skills.
8) What does leadership mean to you?
In my view, leadership means using my position and expertise to influence lives positively.
9) What advice would you give girls who are considering a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematic (STEM)?
The main advice I will give is that trust God, put in your best and don't allow anyone to discourage you from pursuing your dreams even if you falter along the way. To become an Economist, I needed to pass maths and a science subject very well but I remembered that I failed my first chemistry exam and I was told by my teacher that I should drop the subject. However, my father insisted that I should be given a second chance. I took hold of the second chance, trusted God for strength, refused to be distracted and read my chemistry textbook every day; I had a distinction in chemistry in my matric result.