Victoria Thwaites

Victoria Thwaites_bigVictoria came to Swansea in 2012 to re-train as a medical doctor at Swansea School of Medicine. She studied Human Sciences as her first degree, followed by an MSc in Demography and Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, after which she went to work abroad for several charities specialising in disabilities and disability rights.

Whilst living in Iloilo City, a port city in the Philippines, she encountered her first cases of lymphatic filariasis, sparking an enduring interest in neglected tropical diseases. Inspired by the professional passion of the occupational therapists, nurses and educationalists with whom she worked, on returning to the UK she took up a role with NHS South West London, supporting the diagnosis and management of Hepatitis B and C amongst injecting drug users, and delivering needle exchange services.

In 2012 she was awarded a grant by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene to undertake a project with the charity Lepra, investigating the impact of leprosy diagnosis and treatment on patients’ mental health in Hyderabad, India. This study found that urban leprosy patients are less concerned with the traditional stigma surrounding the disease than with the more practical aspects of the disease, such as reduced dexterity in the fingers and subsequent inability to work. Her most recent research investigates the reasons behind the decline and disappearance of plague in Europe in the 17th century, for which she was joint winner of the Royal Society of Medicine’s prestigious 2016 Norah Schuster History Essay Prize. She looked primarily at maritime factors that may have caused the discrepancy in the decline of plague between North-Western European ports such as London and Amsterdam, and those of the Mediterranean, including Marseilles and Messina. 

She chose Swansea because of the welcoming atmosphere of the medical school, the size of the medical course (the intake is around 70 students a year) and its proximity to the sea.