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Published: 14 May 2024

In conversation with Dr Philippa White, Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine

Dr Philippa White, Specialist Registrar in Public Health Medicine

Dr Philippa White has recently completed a six-month training rotation at the National Screening Service as part of her postgraduate medical training to become a fully qualified public health doctor. Philippa tells us about her placement with us and the projects she worked on supporting our work to improve equity in screening.

“Working with the National Screening Service has been one of the highlights of my public health training so far. It gave me the opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge about population-based screening in my day-to-day work.”

Philippa chose to work in the speciality of public health medicine early in her career. “After my graduation, I spent four years working clinically, gaining experience in a variety of medical specialties. While I enjoyed the experience, camaraderie and challenge of working clinically in hospitals, I was excited to move on and enter the field of public health.”

As part of her postgraduate medical training to become a fully qualified public health doctor in Ireland, Philippa will spend approximately four years completing placements in different parts of the HSE and in some partner agencies.

After completing two years in the Department of Public Health in Cork and a six-month placement with the Quality of Care Unit in the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Philippa started her training with our Public Health team. The team works with our four screening programmes focusing on priority actions to address equity in screening, improve the quality of our screening programmes, and improve population health.

Philippa says she has appreciated learning about the reality of running four national population-based screening programmes. “They are not straight-forward to run. The challenges of making sure screening programmes are safe, effective, based on the best evidence, and not leading to increases in health inequities cannot be overstated. I’ve enjoyed supporting the work to address these challenges.

“I’ve worked on a variety of projects during my placement, including a survey of CervicalCheck sample takers to understand attitudes and preferences towards HPV self-sampling for cervical screening; and a collaborative research project with the National Cancer Registry Ireland to explore associations between deprivation and breast cancer screening outcomes.

“I’ve learned a lot about inequities in screening through this work, and about all the innovative work that’s being done to address this. We know that socially deprived groups who would potentially benefit most from screening are less likely to take part in it. The NSS has developed a strategic framework to improve equity in screening and has been working with marginalised communities to improve screening uptake – the LGBT+ community, Travellers, and with people with disabilities.”

On a day-to-day basis, Philippa was involved in doing literature reviews, analysing data, writing reports, and attending meetings with colleagues. As Philippa moves on to her next placement she says she has benefitted from working in screening. “Population-based screening programmes are a valuable and essential part of the health service – they help to save lives every day.”