Dr Alessandro Demaio is a doctor in the field of public health that works for the World Health Organisation. He has pioneered several global public health movements, including NCD free, the UN decade of action on nutrition, and Festival 21. Alessandro’s work has taken him all around the world, from assisting aid workers in Sri Lanka after the tsunami, Copenhagen – where he completed his PhD in public health – Harvard University, where he pursued a post doctorate fellowship, Geneva, for his work with the WHO, and even Mongolia!

Listen in to hear what it was exactly that swayed Alessandro from aiming towards life as a rural GP to applying for and being accepted as an intern at the WHO. It was in this role that he realised that preventable diseases were found “everywhere”, not just in developed nations. Controlling preventable diseases has become the force that drives him to achieve his lofty goals.

The biggest struggles Alessandro faces are the requirement to be “cautious” with what he says when representing the WHO, and the slow pace at which it effects change. He sometimes missed the “immediacy” of the impact one can make as a clinician. Nevertheless, he humbly counts himself “lucky” to work on projects that can effect change globally. His particular interests involve nutrition, food waste and obesity.

A typical day lasts 11 hours and involves practically nothing of what we expect of your average doctor! Alessandro spends his time liaising with experts from around the world and working on large-scale projects. For those of us wanting to do our part, Alessandro encourages us to become involved in the WHO, medical school organisations, or other non-medical organisations. Indeed, he sees his best investment as the “time and risk” he put in to leaving the “safe” path of medicine, with a clear goal and the comfort of equifinality in mind (yep, we had to google that one too). He believes life “comes in stages”, and he is happy to sacrifice his work-life balance for the moment to make an impact on the world.

We hope you guys enjoy this podcast! Feel free to send through any questions you may have for Dr Alessandro Demaio, and give us feedback on this week’s episode by filling out the survey.

Also, Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads out there!



Pathways into Public Health:

Medical School → Internship → Masters of Public Health (recommended; 1-2 years)

Source: Monash University (degree available at other universities around Australia as well)


According to the Australian Government Taxation Data, in the 2013-14 income year we had approximately:

  • 3,252 female public health specialists earning an average of $118,310
  • 3,551 male public health specialists earning an average of $187,468
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TMC031: Public Health with Dr Alessandro Demaio
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