Career Profile

Danielle Berkovic,
PhD student

Degree: Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)

Graduated: 2016

Passion: Researching a condition with personal impact

Danielle graduated with a Bachelor of Health Science (Honours) in 2016. Initially uncertain what to do, she took a part-time Research Assistant position with her Honours supervisor. This grew to full-time work as more grant funding came in, and she worked across diverse projects. Encouraged by her supervisor to pursue a PhD, Danielle was inspired by her personal experience of being a young person with arthritis to choose her topic. She loves that public health looks beyond the patient and explores social and economic drivers of health.

Danielle’s advice to new graduates is to be open to challenges and opportunities, to network, and to accept that casual or part-time jobs may be the best way to start your career.

Current role: PhD student

When you first graduated, could you see a clear career path or were you uncertain?

I was a bit uncertain. Initially I thought I would go into clinical social work, but I quickly realised that I didn’t really have the temperament for it! So I applied for, and was accepted into, the SPHPM Summer Vacation Scholarsip Program, which I loved, and that led me into research, which I continue to love.

How did you get your foot in the door with your first job?

Really it was by networking with my Honours supervisor, Darsh (Dr Darshini Ayton). She is a wonderful mentor and really inspired me, and she took me on as a two-day a week Research Assistant.

What sort of jobs have you had since graduation?

So the initial two-day a week job was working on a systematic review exploring the impact of volunteer supporters on dementia patients and their care. As it was only two days a week and I still had bills to pay, I continued working in a part-time customer service/admin role for an insurance company. I think multiple part-time or casual roles is a reality for new graduates.

About six months in, Darsh received more funding which allowed me to work full-time for her. I expanded into diverse projects exploring family violence, Parkinson’s Disease and cardiovascular disease. Not only were the topics diverse, but the skills I used were as well – one day I’d be doing data collection, the next statistical analysis.

Darsh encouraged me to do my PhD, which looks at psychosocial and financial impacts of arthritis on young people with the condition. The inspiration for my topic was personal. I have arthritis myself, so I understand my own experience, but am excited to find out the views of other young people and fill this gap in the scientific literature.

What have you enjoyed about your public health career to date?

The opportunities to learn and upskill are endless; there is so much variety in what I investigate and how I go about it. It can be deeper and more personal than clinical medicine as well. I don’t just explore or treat the condition, I get to see how conditions impact on the lives of people.

What advice would you give to students in their final year of a public health degree?

  • Be curious. You don’t need to know what you want to do when you graduate, you just need to be open to trying new things, tackling new challenges and taking on different responsibilities.
  • Network! University is a moment in time where you have incredible access to health leaders, who are your lecturers, tutors and supervisors. Make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to send them an email, invite them for a coffee and just ask about their work and what opportunities they might have for you, or introductions to others.
  • Be prepared to work casually or part-time. If you walk into a full-time dream job, you’re very lucky. For most people I think the pathway is juggling a couple of smaller jobs, which will enrich your skills and experience. Eventually something will give – either a small job will expand, or you’ll meet someone who offers you a full-time job, or you’ll just have a rich enough CV to a secure a full-time job through applying via a job ad.

What is the main value of your Monash undergraduate degree?

It was really holistic. I learnt a bit of biology, statistics, theory on prevention and health promotion, the works. And the diversity among the students and tutors was great, and gave amazing perspectives. I learnt about Ebola management from an international tutor who had worked on the front-line during an outbreak in Africa. I can’t think of a better way to learn than that.