By Rob Moodie, PHAA Mentor of the Year
Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health at the University of Melbourne, was recognised for his commitment to mentorship at the 2023 Australian Public Health Conference. We chatted to him about his career and the importance of mentorship in public health.
What was your reaction to receiving the PHAA Mentor of the Year Award?
I was both delighted and reassured. It was reassuring because I do a lot of mentoring – I teach about it, and I encourage virtually everyone I teach to be a mentor (and to have mentors), so the award suggests I’m on the right path.
Why did you choose a career in public health?
My first two major jobs were as a clinician working for Save the Children Fund in a refugee camp in Sudan and then for Congress in Alice Springs. I realised I needed to know much more about public health in both roles and I felt that I could make a greater impact at the population level. Then the AIDS epidemic came along. I wanted to stay connected to clinical medicine, but my brain couldn’t retain all I needed for both, so I chose public health.
What do you enjoy about the day-to-day aspects of your job as Professor of Public Health?
The opportunity to learn from, support, and connect with (mostly) much younger people every day. I love to teach, facilitate, and observe colleagues and students grow in their capacity and their impact in public health.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The superb people I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from all over the globe. You see the world from where you sit – so I just love being in other places!
What public health issue do you think does not get the attention it deserves?
Public health itself. One of the most quoted but least respected phrases in our lexicon is “prevention is better than cure”. The prevention of noncommunicable diseases including cancers, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and mental ill health are often overlooked, while precedence is given to treatment. It would be great to see more of an emphasis on public health surveillance and monitoring of the vectors of these noncommunicable diseases, such as tobacco, alcohol, ultra-processed foods, and fossil fuel industries.
Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in public health?
Go for it. I’m very grateful I’ve been able to work in public health. It’s valuable to learn from others with different skills and worldviews, be they communities, activists, digital strategists, financiers, lawyers or economists.
Lastly, was there anything else you wished to add?
PHAA has a great mentoring program. During the pandemic, Cath Chamberlain and Terry Slevin started a very special PHAA sponsored mentoring program in Victoria – and I’m sure many people are very grateful for it. Our own public health research tells us how important social support is for our mental and physical health, and well-run mentoring programs can be fabulous for professional social support.