HEAL Spotlight: Deepika Saluja

  • Name: Deepika Saluja
  • Originated from: Sonepat – Haryana, India
  • Global public health area(s) of expertise: Universal healthcare, public-private partnerships, accountability, frontline health workers, gender, qualitative methods, and currently exploring sexual and reproductive health rights
  • Educational background: B.Sc. (Gen), MBA (Finance & Marketing), PhD (Public Health Policy). Education for me is never ending. I have always wanted to study and gather a deeper understanding in various fields. I feel I will continue to do so, even after my PhD. Psychology and law are next on my list 😊
  • Jobs before your current position (selected): Have experimented, interned, and worked as an independent consultant with different projects in public health for past couple of years, along with part-time teaching health courses. Currently working as a consultant with Oxford Policy Management, India Office.
  • Best advice you’ve ever received: Never fear taking risks, this is what makes you YOU!
  • Advice you’d give to emerging global public health professionals:
    1. Do not be afraid of trying something new, experiment, explore and find your own path, and OWN IT!
    2. Continue reflecting on your inherent biases and question your assumptions. This is how we can grow into being more considerate and inclusive in our approach towards people around us, at work and in our communities.
  • Twitter handle: @deepikasaluja13
  • Other social media handles: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deepika-saluja-5bb76224/

Your story

Having lost a very close family member to the private interests of a big hospital sparked the curiosity in me to understand that side of the world and ultimately paved my journey towards a PhD in Public Health Policy. Initially, my mother was opposed to the idea of sending me to a 5-year PhD programme at IIM Ahmedabad (for letting her daughter choose her dreams over following the typical societal norms of getting married). But, slowly she got on board and ended up standing with me like a rock through the entire process. I saw her grow with me along my PhD journey. The PhD programme came with its own share of ups and downs, ranging from exciting field visits for data collection, thrilling conference visits with lots of travel, Emerging Voices for Global Health (EV4GH) journey, delayed and endless thesis writing nights in the library, late-night coffee breaks, and finally, graduation. It all felt like a dream on the eve of my graduation ceremony.

My roller coaster ride continued even after my PhD, when I chose not to go for the traditional placement/immediate job offers I was receiving. I wanted to explore, learn, and ‘upskill’ myself. I went for an editorial internship with an empty bank account and no clarity on when it would be reflective of my education and skills. Choosing that route came with its own risks and adventures, but the learnings that came along that exploratory journey were unbeatable. I’m glad I chose this unconventional path, as it has shaped me into who I am today.

Soon after, exciting work with the Women in Global Health India Chapter began. Currently, we (my co-founding team and our Chapter members) are consciously driving the agenda of transformative global health leadership and changing the narrative by bringing forth grassroots voices to mainstream public health policy discussions and decision-making spaces. My recent work at Oxford Policy Management (OPM) has provided me opportunities to connect the dots and see the big picture as well as identify critical questions that need to be raised in the public health space. The immense support and guidance I have received throughout my journey, from my supervisors, mentors, peers, friends, and family has been very humbling and inspiring.

Inner Lantern glow-up 

  • Lesson learned over the last year: “When someone tells you it can’t be done, it’s a reflection of their limitations, not yours.”
  • Current life motto: Kindness and hard work!
  • What’s your favorite global health organization/agency and why: People’s Health Movement, because it is grounded and stands for the rights of citizens
  • If you didn’t have to work what would you do: Read books (fiction and non-fiction) and travel
  • Favorite work memory thus far: My Emerging Voices for Global Health (EV4GH) training in Vancouver and residency time at the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp, where I was able to participate in global health discussions and add ‘Global South’ perspectives
  • Coolest global public health specialization to be in: Planetary public health (coolest and much needed)
  • Favorite movies: Dying for Drugs (a very powerful documentary that investigates the global pharma industry), Article 15 (shows the grim realities of caste-based discrimination in India), and The Boss Baby and Minions (for a lighter watch 😊)
  • What’s one thing everyone in the global public health field should know: The decolonizing global health discourse
  • What is one of your proudest accomplishments: My EV4GH journey and co-leading the Women in Global Health India Chapter
  • Currently reading/listening to: Things Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi and The Michelle Obama Podcast
  • What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned thus far: “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” – Jodi Picoult
  • How would you define global public health: Stressing the ‘public’ of public health, it is a public good to be provided by the government for its people, with community members actively engaged in decision-making processes. Placing public health in the hands of private players and the market will definitely leave out the vulnerable and marginalized population groups, which is what the current pandemic has shown us, particularly the deeper inequities in accessing health care, and how truly global public health is. The larger benefit of the population needs to be at the center of every decision.
Deepika at the World Health Organization’s headquarters in Geneva for the 144th Executive Board meeting (January 2019)
  • What job would you be terrible at: Desk job with no human interaction
  • What age do you want to live until: As long as I can continue to live with purpose and make it meaningful, it is difficult to put a number on it
  • Health equity is, in your words: Equal access to health for everybody, irrespective of social, political, or economic structures
  • What makes you happy: A warm hug from a loved one
  • Favorite place to eat in your hometown/area you’re currently living in: Home
  • If you could live anywhere, where would you live: Antwerp
  • What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation: Gender-based discrimination in our daily lives, raising our boys right and Law of Attraction
  • What industry do you think will be revolutionized soon: Education
  • Urgent issue(s) in global public health you wished more people knew/cared about: The climate emergency
  • What do you wish you knew more about: History
  • Favorite artists: I really like bold women who take their influencer responsibility seriously
  • What location is at the top of your travel bucket list: Alaska!
  • What lifestyle changes are you trying to make, if any: Balancing my sleep cycle and including physical activity as part of my daily routine
  • What fictional place do you dream of going to: The world of minions and Baby Corps (from The Boss Baby)
  • How will the world be different post-COVID-19: With deeper and more visible inequities and a more promising generation to work towards addressing them, given the decolonizing global health conversations going on
  • What is worth splurging on every time: Books, always. My love for books and reading was realized only a few years ago. Reading novels was prohibited during my school and college life and was seen as a symbol of Western influence, which my mother clearly didn’t want. I started reading only in 2015, I have read and gathered quite a lot of books in the past 5-6 years which are my most cherished possession.
Deepika’s beautiful collection of books so far!
  • How will you make your life a “meaningful life”: By aligning my ambitions to a greater cause and making an impact on people’s lives
  • Most memorable gift that you’ve ever received: Chocolates and a handwritten note sent by my student from his first salary (whom I taught only for 4 days 😊)
  • If magic was real, which spell would you try first: To go back to my childhood and make it exciting, reliving it knowing the future
  • What do you think makes a good friend: Honesty and being there!
  • Best trip of your life thus far: Europe trip during my residency at Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp
  • Who do you go out of your way to be nice to: Homeless people
  • What really makes you angry: Use of expletives (disrespect and abuse particularly towards women and vulnerable people)
  • What helps you de-stress: Food
  • Words those close to you would use to describe you: Over-sensitive and over-thinker
  • Favorite candy/snack/dessert: Blueberry cupcakes
  • Life goals: Write an autobiography and raise my to-be son (whenever that happens) a feminist
  • Role models: Kamla Bhasin, Medha Patkar, Michelle Obama
  • What would your life meal be: Stuffed paratha anytime
  • What is the best way that someone can spend their time: Reading! Or learning something new
  • What has made you anxious during the pandemic: Elders’ decreased immunity towards COVID-19. Also, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is REAL and becoming more prominent.
  • What personal strength have you developed that has helped you face life’s challenges: Growing thick skin to tackle societal norms and standards for women 😊
  • You dream of a world where: Every living being is treated with kindness, respect, and dignity
Deepika with her new friend Tobechukwu Udeigbo at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting (November 2016)
%d bloggers like this: