From SPHPM to Oxford – Connor Rochford awarded a Rhodes Scholarship

SPHPM alumnus, Connor Rochford has recently been awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to undertake study at the University of Oxford. This is a superlative achievement and a great opportunity for Connor to continue research in his interest area of public health policy.

Connor recently completed his Medicine Degree at Monash and spent his honours year with SPHPM, supervised byProfessor Just Stoelwinder and Dr Renata Morello. His honours thesis investigated the factors that influence the development of public policy aimed at ensuring a financially sustainable health care system. He is currently working for the Australian Health Policy Collaboration as a Senior Analyst. He has previously represented the International Federation of Medical Students (IFMSA) at the World Health Assembly and for his medical elective he completed an internship at the global management and consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

He said that these opportunities confirmed his passion to influence health systems at a strategic rather than a clinical level.

“I am driven by a vision of health and wellbeing for all Australians and I believe we can better integrate Australia’s health, aged and social care systems to consistently provide high-quality care to those who need it. Through my studies and career I hope to my combine expertise in medicine and policy innovation to improve the quality, access and cost of healthcare in Australia,” Connor said.

As a part of the Scholarship, Connor will undertake a Master of Philosophy in Politics (Political Theory) at the Department of Politics and International Relations. Following completion of his MPhil, he plans to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil – the Oxford term for a PhD) in public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government.

“My particular research interest is in how we can harness political systems to improve health and well-being. Through my honours year at SPHPM and subsequent work experience I have come to realise that many health policy challenges are fundamentally political challenges; questions of health sustainability are ultimately questions of political desirability, feasibility and sustainability. This realisation has helped reframe my research interest from questions of ‘How can we consistently provide high-quality care to all who need it, using the few resources we have available?’, to research interests such as "How might we reform our political institutions to protect the interests of future generations?"

“This is fantastic achievement and opportunity for Connor and one based on his high academic standing and obvious commitment to public health and medicine. On behalf of SPHPM I congratulate Connor and speak for us all when I say we are confident you will have a very positive impact on the world of public health through your studies and drive,” Professor John McNeil, Head of SPHPM said.

“I would like to thank Professor Stoelwinder for his generosity, wise counsel and an intellectual environment that challenged and extended my understanding of why and how the world works the way it does. I’ve got no doubt that I would not be in this position if had not been for his mentorship and kindness.

“As well as Dr Morello for her patience and assistance with my writing and for the constant source of energy and inspiration throughout the year,” said Connor.

He would like to think Dr Darshini Ayton for guiding him through the art and science of qualitative research and all his colleagues of the Falls and Bone Health Team.

“Studying at the SPHPM was a transformative personal and professional development opportunity that I feel incredibly fortunate to have had,” Connor said.