UCL News


Spotlight on... Dr Rochelle Burgess

7 January 2021

This week we meet Dr Rochelle Burgess, Lecturer in Global Health, who is Director of the MSc in Global Health and Development and UCL’s Global Network on Mental Health and Child Marriage. Here, Rochelle chats to us about her forthcoming book, which will be out later this year.

Rochelle Burgess

What is your role and what does it involve?

This is never an easy question for me to answer, because I wear so many hats. My title is Lecturer in Global Health, at UCL’s Institute for Global Health. But under that pretty big umbrella I do a lot of different things. I am Director of the MSc in Global Health and Development, and do lots of teaching on power in global health, research methods, and mental health. I am Deputy Director of UCL’s Centre for Global Non-Communicable Diseases, and also Director of a new research network launched in 2018, UCL’s Global Network on Mental Health and Child Marriage. This month I’ll be starting a new role as BAME Attainment Gap Lead for the Faculty of Population Health Sciences.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined UCL in 2018, but before that I was a research fellow at the LSE’s Africa Centre, and a visiting lecturer at the Department of International Development, also at LSE. My first job post-PhD was a lectureship in Public Health and Social Care at London Metropolitan University. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am not very good at celebrating myself, so nothing readily comes to mind... if you ask my husband he would probably say it was my piece in Nature last year on the social and community dynamics of the mental health consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Even my mom who still doesn’t understand what academia is, though that was a big deal, so it’s probably a good one to go with! Nine months later people still reach out to me to say what it meant to them to see a piece like that. I think writing something that connects with people is totally worth celebrating. 

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

My to-do list feels more like a to-do book... can I give three projects? First is finally finishing my forthcoming book: Rethinking Global Health: Frameworks of Power, which will be out later this year, in the Routledge Critical approaches to Health series. Second is finishing a publication reporting the findings of a recent project I did with young people from racialised backgrounds in London on their experiences of COVID and its impact on their wellbeing. Third, is launching two new research projects where I will work with local communities to design relevant mental health supports responding to structural and psychological drivers of mental ill health. One is in Zimbabwe for communities tackling child marriage, the other is in Colombia working with victims of the armed conflict. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

These questions aren’t supposed to be hard, but they totally are!

Album: The Miseducation of Lauren Hill 
Film: Little Women (the 1994 version of course)
Novel: A prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, tied with Nervous Conditions, by Tsitsi Dangarembga

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

I had to ask what pre-watershed meant, which shows that I still have some of my Canadian roots! I will use my toddler’s current favourite:

What wobbles when it flies? 
A JELLYCOPTER!! (it’s funnier when delivered by a three year old)

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Some of these people are dead, some are living, all are fabulous. 

  • Michel Foucault
  • Guilaine Kinouani
  • Seye Abimbola 
  • Christina Sharpe
  • Kwame Ture 
  • Ed Reed (not the football player, but my husband, the journalist)

What advice would you give your younger self?

You matter. Behave as such. 

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I'm an open book, so people know lots about me already. But it may surprise them to know that I used to be in a rock band when I was at Uni in Canada. I sang and occasionally, played the cowbell. 

What is your favourite place?

As I am missing home at the moment, it’s definitely my mother’s kitchen table, in Oakville, Canada. Sat next to her and listening to her laugh. Her laugh is like music.