DrPH Alumni Spotlight

alumni spotlight

Claire Chaumont
Claire Chaumont, DrPH ’18

With 100 graduates since its inception in 2014, the DrPH Program has developed an illustrious, talented group of public health professionals who have taken their DrPH degree and have become public health leaders.

We recently reached out to Claire Chaumont, DrPH ’18, to find out where her public health career has taken her and the current work she is doing!

  • Where are you currently located?

Claire: Geneva, Switzerland, but I am moving to San Francisco, California in just a few weeks, so drop me a note if you’re out there!

  • Where are you currently working, and a brief description of your job?

Claire: In the last three years, I have helped set up a new department at the World Health Organization (WHO) called Delivery for Impact. We are striving to make the organization more focused on country-level impact. We support WHO country offices and technical teams, helping them plan towards implementation, use data & analytics to prioritize their activities, develop accountability routines, and more generally adapt, WHO’s rigorous normative guidance to each local context.

Within the team, I lead all our work on determinants of health and universal health coverage so, I have been working closely with country teams focused on a variety of topics–tobacco and alcohol control, nutrition, environmental health, road safety, human resources for health, and health financing. Our goal is to help countries shape their work to maximize their impact. This has been a very demanding but also incredibly fun endeavor!

  • The DrPH Doctoral Project is the culminating experience of the Harvard DrPH degree and the primary locus of the knowledge translation elements of the degree”. What was the title of your Doctoral Project, where did you work (host organization), and what were your takeaways from completing the project?

Claire: My Doctoral Project was entitled “Combating non-communicable diseases worldwide, what role for drug research & development”? It was an opportunity to explore the role of different stakeholders working in access to medicines and drug development, and to learn about the research and development process. Hearing so many different and often conflicting perspectives really crystalized for me that driving change was about so much more than knowing what to do. I joined the DrPH program wanting to become a technical expert but, left it convinced that bridging the gap between evidence and action was much more in need.

  • The 4 pillars of the DrPH Program are leadership, management, communication, and innovative thinking. Which pillars (if any) do you use most in your new position, and how did the program prepare you for it?

Claire: I often say that my three years at Harvard were life-changing and not just because I met my husband there! The program changed the lens through which I analyze problems and helped me develop a much more nuanced understanding of things like organizational change or the dynamics between stakeholders. All those skills have been essential to navigate the complexity of an international bureaucracy like WHO and to identify levers of change within the organization. 

  • If you are in a management position, what would you look for if you were hiring new graduates from the DrPH Program? 

Claire: I have had the rare privilege to interact with all DrPH cohorts since the program’s inception: first as a student and now as instructor for the Fundamental Concepts of Public Health course. DrPH graduates are a strong group with an incredibly diverse skillset: whatever expertise I needed; I am sure someone will have it.

  • If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?

Claire: I don’t quite believe in looking back with regrets–so yes, I’d do it all again. 

  • Is there any work/document/article you are currently working on that you’d like to promote? Our current students would love to find out what our alumni are working on. 

Claire: I am becoming more and more interested in the implementation of complex, transversal problems and how insights from leadership, implementation science, and political economy can complement technical expertise. Most of my work currently focuses on this.  At WHO, I want to flag the new WHO Acceleration Plan to Stop Obesity, which I am heavily involved in, and which I think is already making strides in supporting 28 frontrunner countries invested in tackling the rising obesity epidemic. My WHO team and I, along with fellow DrPH graduate (Paola) Abril Campos, are also about to launch a WHO Academy course called Delivering Impact in Every Country. It’s still in beta version, but please reach out if you want to test it out!

I am proud of the experts’ recommendations of the recent One Sustainable Health for All Declaration, focused on practical ways to bring together animal, human, and environmental health. I was part of the initial team that set up the initiative and still can’t believe how far it’s come. With friends and DrPH Alumni Pablo Villalobos and Jeff Glenn, we have been exploring the role of leadership in health, especially during COVID-19 – a topic I think will only grow in importance in coming years. 

Finally, I am currently working on a public health textbook for graduate students, including DrPH students. I hope it sees the light of day in 2024!

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