Merita Monteiro is part of the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security's STRONG TL project, which is designed to strengthen communicable disease surveillance and control in Timor-Leste.
What is your current role?
Currently, I am taking a short break from being a GP and Head of Communicable Diseases Department at the Ministry of Health in Timor-Leste to study a Master of Public Health at CDU through Menzies School of Health Research. It has been my dream for the last five years.
What drew you to work in health security?
I am interested in public health and health security because I want to improve the community's health and well-being. I found many issues and challenges related to public health when working as a GP in one of the municipality hospitals in Timor-Leste. It made me think that health extends far beyond just a treatment; it is also about prevention - how do we prevent our community from illnesses, detect diseases early, provide health education and respond as early as possible so people can live a healthier life.
How does your work impact people’s lives?
My work experience as both a GP and Head of Communicable Diseases together with my public health knowledge will provide me a solid foundation to better understand the issues that cause population health problems, the environment where people are living, their behaviour, culture and their perception of health and also the health care system available to them. These experiences and understanding reinforce my commitment to help people to live healthier lives.
What are some of the challenges you face in your work?
The most challenging thing I faced when working as a GP was that the community's perception of health was very poor in Timor-Leste and the healthcare system in place did not adequately respond to the community's needs. There are also limited studies on disease prevalence and other public health issues. Therefore, I think it is essential to also invest and collaborate with partners in ''Research'' to provide evidence on current population health conditions to support designing better health programs and policy making decisions.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
To me, the most rewarding thing about my work is how I helped people through my job as GP and then then as the head of communicable diseases. This made me feel that I had contributed a tiny part to society. Helping others creates an extraordinary feeling inside me.