OA Global Voices

Q&A with Fulbright Scholar, Dr Judith McCartney (2004), Yale USA


1. What made you apply for a Fulbright Scholarship?


I have always been interested in Public Health and how forces outside of the hospital shape and determine our health. This has never been more important as we face a global pandemic. As a doctor working in anaesthetics and being part of the surgical team, you see the consequence of disease. But it is hard to ignore the influence of other factors such as housing, education, poverty and education on a patient’s ability to be healthy. Public Health encompasses every aspect you see in a person’s life and applies it to our policies, our health services and even our laws. 


I heard about the Fulbright Post Graduate Scholarship through a colleague in medicine. The Fulbright Program is a global academic cultural exchange programme based on the principle of cultural understanding from spending time abroad. It really embodies the spirit of international collaboration, which the Covid-19 crisis has shown us is vital to both global health and security. I was honoured to be chosen for their Nursten Medical Award of $45,000 and have loved meeting other Fulbright students here and in the US. Without some funding, studying in the US is prohibitively expensive and the postgraduate scholarship is a really unique opportunity for financial support. 

2. Studying at Yale –v- in the UK – what are the biggest differences?


Studying at an Ivy League university completely surpassed my expectations in terms of facilities, quality of teaching and overall experience. Medical school is quite prescriptive, where this time I was able to take classes from any of the graduate schools on campus, in addition to my mandatory public health classes, as long as they were related to healthcare. I took a class on negotiations at the business school, seminars in medical anthropology and a journalism course on health care communications. I feel I was able to tailor my year to my interests, while still obtaining core skills in public health. 


3. What did you miss most about Scotland (if anything!) and what did you like best about living in the US?


Being apart from my family was hard but being only 7 hours meant they were able to visit often, which was so fun. I loved exploring the east coast, taking road trips to Vermont for the famous New England fall leaves and experiencing a real American thanksgiving in Boston. Yale is only a few hours from New York so we could jump on a train after class and make concerts, shows or dinner. 


4. What was your biggest obstacle to overcome? 


Americans don’t lack self-confidence and while I have always considered myself a relatively confident person, it took a while to shake of my inbuilt Scottish imposter syndrome and believe I deserved to be there! But one of the best things about public health is how people approach the field from different viewpoints and experiences. In my class, there were medics, lawyers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, scientists, people from non-profits and politics. My experience as a doctor working in a national health service was a very unique experience of healthcare compared to my peers and truly valued within class discussions.

5. How will the Fulbright Scholarship help your career?

Through the Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship, I was able to experience a different culture, foster academic relationships and be exposed to many different perspectives on health and healthcare. Completing my degree was obviously the goal but now looking back, the lifelong network of friends, future colleagues and mentors is the thing I will cherish the most. Public Health is a global field and having supportive relationships in other academic centres will be invaluable as I progress through my career.

6. What would you say to OAs who are thinking of applying to the Fulbright Program?

The idea of applying to university in America and getting a scholarship can be quite daunting. But don’t let that put you off! It was a long process for it all to come together but I always knew if I got in and the funding, how excited I would feel to have the chance to study at Yale. Reach out and ask for advice, support and help in the process and don’t give up. It’s such a great opportunity and was definitely worth the time and effort.

7. What are your hopes for the future?

I hope to be able to combine my interests in public health and clinical medicine while training and working in the West of Scotland. There has never been a more critical time to be involved in public health and graduating during a global pandemic brought home the important role clinicians can play is shaping health policy and leadership within healthcare.




Ronald Torrance (2009),  now lives in China

I was a pupil at St Aloysius’ between 2003 and 2009, where I discovered my interest in English literature in Mr Renton’s classes and believe his encouragement ultimately led me to pursue my PhD at the University of Strathclyde. I have been fortunate to have continued working alongside Mrs McWilliams as part of the College’s annual Lourdes pilgrimage: first, as a pupil in 2009 and, more recently, returning as an OA with staff and students of the College in 2017-2019.

After graduating from the University of Strathclyde with an English and Human Resource Management BA Hons, I worked for a brief period in a software development company in Shanghai, China: a move which would go on to influence both my future career and academic interests.

I returned to Scotland and the University of Strathclyde, completing an MLitt in 2015 under the guidance of Dr Niland. During this time, I began pursuing an interest in Chinese literature, and was encouraged to continue this into a PhD.

Alongside my PhD, I worked full-time, returning to China for shorter periods of travel and study, before taking up a post as a Lecturer at a Double-First University in Henan Province.

If I thought my first landing in Shanghai was challenging, life in China’s Central Plain made it seem like a breeze, in hindsight. The scale of China’s cities, by comparison to Scotland, takes some time to adjust to: there are 94 million people in Henan province alone!

Outwith the “bigger” cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, English isn’t commonly spoken. This can make communication difficult, however, people are generally helpful, and a few simple words or phrases can go a long way towards being understood.

Other than the language, there are a few cultural barriers which take some time getting used to. Mobile phones are everywhere now, but perhaps more so in China than anywhere else. People pay for everything – food, train tickets, even tax and utilities – with mobile apps, and everyone has a QR code of their own which allows you to make person-to-person transactions. 

For its size, China is an unusually well-connected country, and one of the great benefits of being based in a central province isitsaccessibility to other cities. High-speed rail makes travel within China easy and efficient, and being based in this part of the world is ideal for traveling to other countries I never thought I would’ve had the opportunity to visit, such as Nepal, North Korea and, most recently, trailing the route from Lhasa to Mt. Everest in Tibet.

Current events mark where we all find ourselves in the course of history. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has disrupted our daily way of life and thrown us into a strange period of global uncertainty. Having experienced lockdown in China, and having hoped the virus would have been contained here, I have watched as it has spread globally.

With this, comes a curious pressure to remain upbeat; easier said than done at a time when we are encouraged to self-isolate from one another. The current situation is affecting different people in different ways, and it’s important for everyone to know that whatever you’re going through, it’s okay to talk about it – everyone reacts differently to different events, and often talking can be an important first step in helping you feel better. Reducing physical contact doesn’t necessarily mean we need to be socially isolated.

I have been encouraged by the camaraderie of colleagues here, in China, and by friends and family back home, and the consolation which small acts of kindness have had in raising people’s spirits despite the lockdown. Technology allows us more than ever to reach out to those closest to us, our families and friends, and teachers, and gives us a space to continue to share the best of our humanity in difficult times. 

I’m hopeful. The strength of the Aloysian community’s shared faith uniquely equips us to be able to get through this unprecedented situation. We must use this time to recall the relationships which bind us as one, shared community, and have faith that we can overcome these challenges together and emerge all the stronger for it.