Dr. Margaret Coffey - Reader in Public Health

September's "2 Minutes With..." regular feature for the North-West Population Health & Prevention Network caught up with Dr. Margaret Coffey, The University of Salford's Reader in Public Health.

Tell us about your role...

My role is split between teaching and research. I teach mainly post-graduate students undertaking their MSc Public Health at the University of Salford. I lead on the module Evidence Based Public Health and teach on the modules Research Methods Applied to Public Health, and 21st Century Global Public Health Challenges. The other part of my role involves me carrying out research, often to evaluate health promotion initiatives, e.g. the Salford Community Food Workers, the Communities in Charge of Alcohol (CICA) project, or smoking cessation interventions, involving the use of e-cigarettes.  I also mentor and supervise MSc Dissertation students and Post Graduate Research students doing their PhDs.  Other aspects of my role have involved being a programme leader of undergraduate and post graduate programmes, being Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Health Promotion, presenting research findings at conferences (nationally and internationally), delivering training, and publishing from the research studies I have been involved in.

How did you get into your area of work?

Initially I did degree in Health at Liverpool John Moores University, and towards the end of my degree had the opportunity to apply for a PhD studentship. I jumped at the chance and spent the next three years undertaking a PhD exploring ‘Stress in Social Services’. During my PhD write-up year I was asked to do some part-time lecturing at Liverpool Hope University and whilst working there a full-time position came up, which I was offered and accepted.

Tell us about your public health career journey...

My public health career journey began when my children were young.  I gave up my job as a secretary to spend time at home with them, and while doing so started looking at other opportunities with a view to changing career when my children were older.  I had always been interested in health and wellbeing and was delighted when I realised that I could complete my university studies while my children were at school. I began my undergraduate degree as a mature student and loved it; completing my first degree and PhD over 6 happy years at Liverpool John Moores.  From there I went into lecturing, moving from lecturer to senior lecturer and reader in public health over 15 years post-doc. 

Tell us a bit more...

The areas that I work in are health improvement, particularly in relation to work-based health and wellbeing, and health improvement in deprived populations. I like to explore why people adopt different behaviours, some healthy and others less so, and then develop/recommend solutions aimed at improving them.

What have been your career highlights / greatest career achievements?

Achieving my PhD in 2004 and also becoming a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2018.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Having the chance to make a difference through the research I undertake and my students, who never fail to inspire me.  Hearing about the important health promotion roles they undertake after they finish their Masters or PhDs always makes me proud.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Watching people grow, develop and achieve during their studies is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. 

On the flipside, what do you enjoy least about your job?

Like a lot of lecturers (I think!?) I least enjoy marking!

Lastly, would you recommend your job to others? If so, why?

Absolutely, it’s a privilege to be able to touch so many students lives and know that they’re going to go on to carry out public health roles that can make positive differences to people’s health and wellbeing.