Introducing yet another exceptional doctor: Alessandro Demaio

Alessandro Demaio, known as Sandro, is a doctor on an unconventional path who’s having a big impact in global public health.

Sandro initially trained as a doctor in Melbourne; he wanted to become a General Practitioner in rural Australia with a white picket fence and a vegetable garden. However, opportunities he took up in Medical School led to him taking a quite different approach to his career as a doctor.

During a clinical care placement in a very rural community north of Mt Isa, (Queensland, Australia), Sandro saw a mother and a young child walk into the clinic. The young child was holding a bottle of coke almost as large as herself. This sparked an interest in global public health for Sandro, who began to realise that the 20-year difference in life expectancy between rural and urban Australians was more to do with the system we’ve created than individual ignorance.

Experiences working in Indonesia, after the Boxing Day tsunami cemented Sandro’s interest in public health and the systems surrounding it. He was shocked and surprised that so many deaths were the result of treatable illnesses.

After finishing his training as a doctor, Sandro completed a Master’s in Public Health and in 2010, he moved to Denmark to begin a PhD Fellowship in Global Health focussing on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

In 2013, Sandro co-founded NCD Free, a global social movement which aims to help curb the rise of NCDs. More than 2.5 million people connected with the project in the first 18 months. NCDs encompass a wide range of diseases that result from behavioural or environmental issues. Lung disease, heart disease and diabetes all fall into the category of NCDs which Sandro says have not been in the public health spotlight in the past. He’s also part of the multi-disciplined team behind Melbourne-based Festival 21 (December 2015), which encouraged thousands of young people to celebrate and discuss community, food and our future.

Quoting Margaret Chan, he reminds us that “the difference between NCDs and malaria is the mosquito didn’t have a multi-billion-dollar lobby for it.”

Sandro is an outstanding example of the wider role that those with a medical degree can play in working towards a better society.

“When there is a Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne with a McDonald’s built in the centre of it, that’s something the medical community should be arguing is not appropriate […] not just for the patients but also the message it sends to young people and to the community.”

Sandro holds a Post-Doctorate Fellowship at Harvard and continues a part-time role as an assistant professor at the Copenhagen School of Global Health. He also serves on the advisory board of EAT, a global multi-stakeholder platform for food, health and environmental sustainability.

Usually considered the problem of ‘lazy, fat, white American men’, NCDs are actually affecting a huge proportion of our global society; particularly the poorest and marginalised in our society. Some of these issues surround food and the way in which it is marketed. In a podcast with MedWorld’s Dr Sam Hazeldine, Sandro talks about the causes behind many of these diseases and how doctors, particularly General Practitioners and those in primary health care, can make a huge difference in this area. Short on time? Read some of the key ideas from the podcast here.

Alessandro Demaio, known as Sandro, is a doctor on an unconventional path who’s having a big impact in global public health.

Sandro initially trained as a doctor in Melbourne; he wanted to become a General Practitioner in rural Australia with a white picket fence and a vegetable garden. However, opportunities he took up in Medical School led to him taking a quite different approach to his career as a doctor.

During a clinical care placement in a very rural community north of Mt Isa, (Queensland, Australia), Sandro saw a mother and a young child walk into the clinic. The young child was holding a bottle of coke almost as large as herself. This sparked an interest in global public health for Sandro, who began to realise that the 20-year difference in life expectancy between rural and urban Australians was more to do with the system we’ve created than individual ignorance.

Experiences working in Indonesia, after the Boxing Day tsunami cemented Sandro’s interest in public health and the systems surrounding it. He was shocked and surprised that so many deaths were the result of treatable illnesses.

After finishing his training as a doctor, Sandro completed a Master’s in Public Health and in 2010, he moved to Denmark to begin a PhD Fellowship in Global Health focussing on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

In 2013, Sandro co-founded NCD Free, a global social movement which aims to help curb the rise of NCDs. More than 2.5 million people connected with the project in the first 18 months. NCDs encompass a wide range of diseases that result from behavioural or environmental issues. Lung disease, heart disease and diabetes all fall into the category of NCDs which Sandro says have not been in the public health spotlight in the past. He’s also part of the multi-disciplined team behind Melbourne-based Festival 21 (December 2015), which encouraged thousands of young people to celebrate and discuss community, food and our future.

Quoting Margaret Chan, he reminds us that “the difference between NCDs and malaria is the mosquito didn’t have a multi-billion-dollar lobby for it.”

Sandro is an outstanding example of the wider role that those with a medical degree can play in working towards a better society.

“When there is a Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne with a McDonald’s built in the centre of it, that’s something the medical community should be arguing is not appropriate […] not just for the patients but also the message it sends to young people and to the community.”

Sandro holds a Post-Doctorate Fellowship at Harvard and continues a part-time role as an assistant professor at the Copenhagen School of Global Health. He also serves on the advisory board of EAT, a global multi-stakeholder platform for food, health and environmental sustainability.

Usually considered the problem of ‘lazy, fat, white American men’, NCDs are actually affecting a huge proportion of our global society; particularly the poorest and marginalised in our society. Some of these issues surround food and the way in which it is marketed. In a podcast with MedWorld’s Dr Sam Hazeldine, Sandro talks about the causes behind many of these diseases and how doctors, particularly General Practitioners and those in primary health care, can make a huge difference in this area. Short on time? Read some of the key ideas from the podcast here.

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