Gemma Cox, MSc Public Health and Health Promotion

Gemma Cox, from Swansea, graduated in 2010 with an MSc in Public Health and Health Promotion. She now coordinates a national smoking prevention programme for Public Health Wales. We caught up with her to find out more about her experiences of studying at Swansea University...

Why did you decide to study at Swansea University?

The course offered everything I was looking for. I live close to Swansea University and wanted a part time course so I could continue working. I knew that I would need to do further studies if I did want to progress in Public Health and so I started looking for suitable courses. After reading the course overview for the MSc Public Health and Health Promotion in Swansea, it ticked all the boxes for me.

What did you enjoy most about your course at Swansea?

I was working as a facilities manager in a deprived area when I started the course and needed a better understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of health promotion and public health. The course enabled me to not only gain theoretical knowledge and apply it to practice but to achieve my goal of working for Public Health Wales.

What are you doing now career-wise? 

I work for Public Health Wales as a Public Health Practitioner. I am responsible for coordinating an evidence based smoking prevention programme which involves setting up, planning, resourcing, implementing and reviewing all aspects of the programme. I manage a team of smoking prevention trainers based around Wales who deliver the programme to 50-60 Secondary Schools each year. We train roughly 1700 young people aged 12-13 on the benefits of being smoke free. We work closely with teachers, school nurses, youth workers and healthy schools practitioners.

How has Swansea University and your course helped you with your chosen career path?

After completing the first year of the MSc and meeting people on the course who worked for Public Health Wales, I knew this was the organisation I wanted to work for. By the start of my second year, I was successful in getting a position with Public Health Wales as a smoking prevention trainer and I haven’t looked back.  

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

I have a team based around Wales so I have to do a lot of travelling. 

What are the most rewarding parts of your job?

Seeing the impact the programme has on the young people we work with and working with a hard-working team that share the same goals.  

What was the best careers advice you were given?

I once read “You may think the grass is greener on the other side. But if you take the time to water your own grass it would be just as green.” This can be applied to worklife; you should always take some time each day to appreciate what you DO have and to nurture it. Then watch it grow.

What advice do you have for current students and new graduates? 

Choose topic areas for assignments that interest you. It will be a difficult 20,000 word dissertation if it’s something you have no interest in. Also, try and get work experience in the area that you are interested in so you get a feel for it. One thing that attracted me to the MSc was the placement module, which allowed me to do this.  

What have you done that you are most proud of?

I am most proud of progressing from smoking prevention trainer to Public Health Practitioner and coordinating the national programme.

What are your favourite memories of your university years at Swansea?

I live close to Swansea University so I stayed at home whilst studying part time for the MSc. My favourite memory was finally handing in my 22,000 word dissertation and going out with the rest of class afterwards to celebrate.