Profile with Anne Andermann
Anne Andermann (Quebec & Worcester 1997) is a family doctor, a public health physician and author of Evidence for Health: From Patient Choice to Global Policy (CUP, 2013). She works as a Medical Specialist in Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Health Canada’s Quebec Regional Office, a Public Health Physician at the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay Northern Quebec, Chair of the Community Oriented Primary Care Committee at St Mary’s Hospital, Chair of Public Health for the new undergraduate medical curriculum at McGill Medical School, and Founding Director of the CLEAR Collaboration, which aims to help frontline health workers address the social causes underlying poor health particularly in low and middle income countries (www.mcgill.ca/clear). . She earned her DPhil in Public Health from the University of Oxford, an MPhil in the History of Medicine from the University of Cambridge and her BSc and MD from McGill University.
Rhodes Project: What is your favorite thing to do in Montreal?
Anne Andermann: We’ve actually been away from Montreal for the past year on parental leave in Berlin where my husband’s family live. One thing we like doing when we’re in Montreal is going out to the country in the Eastern Townships and spending time outside enjoying nature.
Rhodes Project: What was the last book you read for pleasure?
Anne Andermann: I’m reading a book right now called Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones, which is quite interesting. It’s a complicated story about a woman from Africa trying to make her way through Europe to find her abducted child. It’s a very disturbing book that highlights the inequities and injustices in our world in a very direct and human way.
Rhodes Project: Can you tell me about a favorite childhood memory?
Anne Andermann: When I was a baby, my father bought a farm outside of Montreal where we would go on weekends and during our summer holidays. We would help collect the hay in the summer and greet the lambs in the spring, and each year we would also go to the Brome Fair. It’s an annual local country fair where we would ride the ponies, or show the rabbits or chickens and win prizes. Now I like to go with our own kids who look forward to it each year just as much as we used to.
Rhodes Project: What do you enjoy most about your job now?
Anne Andermann: I have different jobs. I work in academia, in government, and in a more clinical milieu. I very much enjoy the variety, but I also especially enjoy the practical nature of the work. I enjoy being able to make a difference and an impact on people’s lives and on the health of populations. That’s a very important thing for me.
Rhodes Project: What is the most challenging part?
Anne Andermann: What is challenging right now is trying to balance many things. It’s a challenge trying to balance not only the different jobs that I have, but to also balance my work with my home life and the children. I have been very fortunate to have wonderful childcare over the years. These women who have helped me and continue to do so often don’t get the recognition that I think they deserve. Without them there would not be women in the workforce. If I ever came into a position in government of some power, if there were ways to make this a more formalized system I think it would be very good for everyone involved. That would be important to me. In the book that I wrote recently called Evidence for Health: From Patient Choice to Global Policy, in my acknowledgements, I thank the two women who were very helpful to me and important figures in our household who looked after my daughter and my son while I was trying to finish up that book. I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things that I am currently able to do without someone to help look after my children, especially now when they are still so young. That being said, I have probably taken the longest maternity leaves of anyone that I know; over 18 months for each child! But during that time, I have generally been working part-time from home on my academic and teaching pursuits which tend to be more flexible, while temporarily putting aside my clinical and public health roles.
Rhodes Project: When did you become passionate about providing healthcare to developing countries?
Anne Andermann: I think the whole area of public health is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I suppose it was more recently that I started up this global health track. I enjoyed the work that I had done previously in public health genetics, but I had my doubts about the extent to which it would make a contribution to global health. I was also concerned with the ethics of continuing on with these high-technology, very expensive ways of providing healthcare when so many people don’t even have the basic necessities. Four years ago, after having worked for a year at the World Health Organization in Geneva, I switched over to more of a global health track because this fit better with my values and interest in supporting social justice and making an impact on a global scale through universal access to primary health care.
Rhodes Project: Who are some of your mentors or role models?
Anne Andermann: I sometimes joke to my husband that a lot of my role models are divorced. I do hope that this won’t happen because I certainly think that would probably be a very bad thing for myself, and especially for my children. So I try to find role models who manage to balance family with high-flying careers. Dr. Tim Evans is a role model of mine. He was an Assistant Director General at the World Health Organization when I was working there, and became the Dean of the BRAC School of Public Health in Bangladesh, and has now moved onto the World Bank. He’s also a Rhodes Scholar. In terms of female role models, there are quite a few women working in senior positions in government and the not-for-profit sector who are role models. One such woman is Dr. Jeanette Vega; she was also working at the WHO and she went back and had a political position in Chile. She’s now leading the health sector in the Rockefeller Foundation in the US. While there are many people in leadership positions that I think are important role models for me, with a young family, though, the question is to what extent I should hold off on those types of positions until my children are a little bit older.
However, I would say that my most important role models were at home when I was growing up. I come from a long line of very determined women, including my grandmother who was a physician and a Holocaust survivor. Before she died, she published her autobiography which is called Mina’s Story: A Doctor’s Memoir of the Holocaust. Her grandchildren have since helped to translate her book into German, Ukranian and Finnish, so that their families and in-laws can also learn what hardships it is possible to live through and overcome. My grandmother helped to raise us, because my mother was a working mother and a physician too, and so my mother was very fortunate to have my grandmother who was in a gradual retirement from her work when we were children. My grandmother definitely helped a lot in being there for us. In many ways, we had two mothers and both were very strong female role models. Both my mother and my grandmother managed to balance work and family - I think that this was very important.
Rhodes Project: What do you like to do outside of work?
Anne Andermann: I like to go hiking. I very much like being in the mountains. We enjoy travelling. More recently, we do more things that are oriented around the children like going to zoos and things like that. They’re lots of fun. We enjoy going to picnics, going tobogganing in the park. We also enjoy going out to see movies.
Rhodes Project: What would readers on our site be surprised to learn about you?
Anne Andermann: I have a Masters degree in History and Philosophy of Science. A lot of people have a very straight and narrow path. They go into science, then medicine and so forth. My path has never been such a straightforward one but it has definitely been an enriching one. I have veered off in different directions, which I find has been very stimulating and fulfilling for the kinds of work that I do. In many ways, it has helped me in the work that I do to understand the bigger picture better.
Rhodes Project: What brings you the greatest joy in life?
Anne Andermann: I really love the time I get to spend with my kids. Both my husband and I derive great satisfaction from the work that we do. Having children is a lot of hard work too, there’s no question, but we definitely enjoy and have a lot of fun with the children. We also enjoy exploring different cultures and learning new things. Travel has always been an important part of what we do. Where possible, we try to combine these different elements. For instance, during our first parental leave we spent a few months in northern Brazil where my husband has family, which gave his relatives a chance to get to know our baby daughter, and where I was also invited as a Visiting Professor at the local university. So we try to have the best of all worlds but it does take some effort and advance planning.
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