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Catching up with Dr. Dan Magnus

BMJ Junior Doctor of the Year 2011 winner

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  • Catching up with Dr. Dan Magnus

Catching up with Dr. Dan Magnus

You were selected as a finalist from more than 600 nominees for the BMJ Junior Doctor of the Year award 2011. Do you remember how you felt when you won the award?

“I was humbled and embarrassed, but in a nice way, to have won the award. It was the validation of the work I do in global health and as the co-founding trustee of the Kenyan Orphan Project (KOP), [a UK charity supporting health, education and social welfare projects for orphans and vulnerable children in Kenya],” he recalls.  But Dan found the sudden media attention overwhelming. “The next day I was interviewed at 6pm on BBC live television, and have been asked to attend numerous speaking opportunities ever since.” The recognition of winning the BMJ Junior Doctor of the Year award spurred him on to  work even harder to try and improve children’s health worldwide.

These days, Dan takes in it all in his stride. He works in the Children’s Emergency Department at the Bristol Children’s Hospital, continues to travel to Kenya to build on the growing impact of KOP, and has also created a student programme of global health education comprising 14 UK universities. When asked to relay his most memorable achievements of late, Dan doesn’t hesitate to reply that he is part of a team that has published a paper recently in the Lancet recommending global health competencies for all paediatricians in the UK, and was recently invited to speak on the Post-2015 child health agenda at the Houses of Parliament. Dan has also since taken on the role of Convener for the International Child Health Group, and Unit Lead of Global Child Health at the University of Bristol.  

Why did you choose to specialise in child health?

“I have always been interested in global health. I was at Nottingham University studying medicine when I met a fellow medical student who grew up as an impoverished child in rural Kenya. It was also at university where I met my two like-minded partners who worked with me to co-found KOP in 2001. The reason I chose to work in child health specifically is because I love treating children and my passion is working towards a better world for children who are suffering. I have been focused on our work in Africa and in promoting the cause of children’s rights to a better life for 10 years. The acknowledgement of winning the BMJ Junior Doctor of the Year award meant a great deal. It was very flattering.”

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Dan (right) with KOP co- founding trustees, Dr Beccy Leslie and Dr Owain Evans.

How has the project developed in the past three years?

“There has been a growing impact of KOP. We have a student programme of global health education and international development training called ‘Charity Apprentice’, in which universities across the UK are involved. There are also now more than 800 medical students and other students from 14 universities taking part in global health education and project volunteering in Kenya.” Dan continues,  “I’ve been trying to translate evidence-based child health interventions into large scale programmes.[Developing] countries are still really early on in the process. There are a lot of trials and good academic work going on, but there is still a lack of translating this evidence into practice in [developing] countries. I’ve written programmes to put child health interventions into primary schools, to improve child health, education, and school attendance, and to measure cognitive outcomes.”

KOP’s biggest health intervention programme is now taking place with over 2,500 children involved. Dan explains that, “over the years we’ve learnt that just tackling one problem – say food – means the damage done by other problems – like water – are exacerbated. The best way is to provide a suite of support where possible. With our HealthStart programme we’re trying to create a framework that we can plug different services into. KOP has been making steady progress by providing school meals, clean, safe water, deworming, malaria nets, clean water, and female sexual health education projects in and around the city of Kisumu in western Kenya.”  

What’s next for you?   

Dan is about to travel with his wife Kerri and infant son to accept a one-year fellowship at Toronto’s Sick Kids’ hospital, where he will combine his love of global health with his subspecialty: paediatric emergency medicine. On his return to the UK, he plans to work as a consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine combined with work in global health.154189_495722746293_4982101_n

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