Meet the Editor: Q&A with Dr Orsolya Varga to celebrate International Women's Day 2024

Dr Orsolya Varga, co-Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, sits down for a Q&A to discuss her research, sustainable development goals 3 & 5, and uplifting women in STEM for International Women's Day.
Meet the Editor: Q&A with Dr Orsolya Varga to celebrate International Women's Day 2024
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Dr Orsolya Varga obtained her medical (MD) degree in 2003, followed by a degree in law (ML) in 2007. She received her PhD in Health Sciences in 2008 from the University of Debrecen, Hungary. Her research interests include policy impact analysis, research prioritisation, and legal mapping of policies on non-communicable diseases. In late 2023, she joined the Editorial Board of Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition as co-Editor-in-Chief. We spoke with Dr Varga on her research, appointment to JHPN, and thoughts on the role of women in STEM.

What is the focus of your research and how does it relate to SDG3 and SDG5?

I have a background in medicine and law. Over the last ten years, my research has focused on the prevention of non-communicable diseases, specifically type 2 diabetes. We are working on modelling geographical inequalities in morbidity of non-communicable diseases in Europe. In terms of non-communicable diseases, health inequalities are closely linked to Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5. SDG3 seeks to achieve healthy lives and well-being for all, and includes targets to decrease premature mortality from non-communicable diseases, promote mental health, and prevent substance abuse.  In addition, SDG5 highlights the importance of reducing inequalities by addressing social determinants such as inequalities in access to health care, poverty, gender inequalities and education, which are key factors contributing to health inequity in non-communicable diseases.     

You recently joined Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition as co-Editor-in-Chief. How do you see this moment in your career and how do you envisage the journal progressing?

As Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, my vision is to expand the journal's scope to address critical global health issues, including NCD prevention, environmental factors, and economic inequalities. We aim to increase readership by engaging with the audience, organizing events, and prioritizing researchers from low-income countries. Embracing technology, fostering innovation, and navigating AI's ethical implications are key to shaping the journal's future success. The goal is to make the journal a leading voice in public health and drive global health research and knowledge dissemination.

Becoming a Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition is a significant career achievement for a researcher with a special interest in academic integrity. This role offers the opportunity to lead an open-access journal with a focus on global health, maternal and child health, nutrition, and population health determinants. As the Co-Editor-in-Chief, I am responsible for the editorial process, ensuring that high standards are maintained in terms of policies and content scope.

Do you think there are enough opportunities for women in STEM and how can we bring certain issues around gender bias to light?

It can be challenging for women to pursue a career in research, particularly in the natural sciences, due to gender stereotypes, social influences, and educational systems that limit opportunities for women in science and technology. To overcome gender bias and create more opportunities for women, strategies such as encouraging girls to take up STEM subjects from a young age and providing equal educational opportunities for both sexes can be employed. Promoting female STEM role models is important to inspire and guide young women who choose STEM careers. For instance, Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian woman, was awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine by the Royal Swedish Academy for her work with fellow American researcher Drew Weissman in laying the foundations for mRNA-based medicine. This enabled the rapid development and practical application of novel vaccines against COVID-19. She has become a role model for numerous young girls in Hungary who aspire to study and pursue a career in science.

There are even opportunities at higher levels, such as implementing policies to support gender equality in STEM education and employment, such as the European Commission's initiatives to close the gender gap in STEM.

What advice would you give to younger women starting out in their career today, particularly those looking to go into STEM?

If you have a genuine passion for science, pursuing a career in academia may be a good fit for you. However, it is important to note that academia is highly competitive and failure is common. It is crucial to learn from failures and not let them discourage you. Additionally, it is important for your family to understand and accept the demands of being a researcher. Researchers do not limit their thinking and writing to a factory setting, as it extends beyond the typical 9am to 5pm schedule. Working in academia provides the joys and pains of intellectual freedom, making it a valuable experience.

Finally, what does International Women's Day mean to you and what message would you like to share?

Since 1910, women have been celebrating International Women's Day on the 8th of March to highlight the strength, resilience, and achievements of women worldwide. It serves as a reminder of the importance of women's rights and gender equality. Many individuals fail to recognize the importance of this day. I was delighted to hear that in 2019 the Berlin parliament passed a bill to make International Women's Day a public holiday. The message I want to convey is that empowering and elevating women is not just a one-day event, but an ongoing effort to create a more inclusive and equal society.  As women, we should strive to support and empower each other, recognizing the value and potential that every woman represents. We can create a world where gender equality is not just a goal, but a reality for all.

Happy International Women's Day!

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Public Health
Life Sciences > Health Sciences > Public Health
Gender and Health
Humanities and Social Sciences > Cultural Studies > Cultural Theory > Gender Studies > Gender and Health
Sustainability
Research Communities > Community > Sustainability
Diseases
Life Sciences > Health Sciences > Clinical Medicine > Diseases
Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Life Sciences > Health Sciences > Public Health > Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

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