Leadership and the Arts in Science with Dr Naomi Boxall (#39)


We talk about epidemiology, leadership, and the art in scientific enquiry.

Mild-mannered scientist by day, Dr Naomi Boxall is an intellectually curious, creative, change agent: always seeking to use my talents to improve health for the population. This has been within multiple fields so far, including public health and pharmacoepidemiology…what might be next?

In our conversation, we talk about epidemiology, leadership, and the art in scientific enquiry.

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Show Notes

[00:00:49] Naomi’s journey to biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology.
[00:01:27] Exploring veterinary sciences.
[00:02:11] Seeing the movie “Outbreak” and becoming fascinated by the field.
[00:03:21] Restructuring her course to change trajectory.
[00:03:59] PhD in Campylobacter jejuni.
[00:04:21] Moving from animal health to public health.
[00:04:37] Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) course by the CDC and EPIET programs.
[00:05:39] Opportunity knocks, but you have to create the doors.
[00:06:25] Experiencing different public health systems in the context of public health globally.
[00:08:05] Working on surveillance systems and investigations for public health concerns.
[00:09:26] How surveillance systems work for diseases and pathogens.
[00:12:33] Transitioning to pharmacoepidemiology.
[00:14:04] The varied paths to epidemiology.
[00:15:56] Delving with your sense of curiosity to find answers.
[00:18:05] Moving to pharmacoepidemiology.
[00:18:16] Wanting to head towards the leadership path but utilise what she has learned in the course of her career.
[00:20:25] How to transition towards leadership roles.
[00:20:47] Lead by letting go.
[00:21:26] Teaching and guiding as a leader.
[00:23:55] Being able to share from your of wealth of experience.
[00:24:32] It’s valuable for the leaders to also understand the experience of working at the coal-face.
[00:25:48] What surprises Naomi in the field.
[00:26:24] Developing more women in leadership.
[00:27:44] Equal maternity and paternity leave entitlements.
[00:28:38] Research and analysis should be split by biological sex.
[00:30:13] You won’t know the answers if you don’t ask the questions.
[00:31:45] Both clinical trials and real world data can provide data for observational studies.
[00:33:49] Finding ways to enrich the data we have in observational studies.
[00:34:55] Interlocution and context.
[00:36:52] Patient centricity, information sources, and what to query.
[00:39:07] How we stigmatise health.
[00:39:44] You shouldn’t have to be on the receiving end to think about perspective.
[00:41:40] Taking your own context for granted.
[00:42:25] The negative perception around not being at full health.
[00:43:16] Say we’re putting people first, and mean it.
[00:44:26] Social structures need to support recovery and community health.
[00:45:43] The challenges for policy makers.
[00:47:44] We don’t exist in a vacuum.
[00:48:20] The power of microorganisms.
[00:51:06] Bringing the humanities to the sciences.
[00:55:19] Communication of public health policy through theatre and plays.
[00:57:07] Using data visualisation to communicate data in an accessible and meaningful way.
[00:58:30] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[00:59:09] Music.
[00:59:29] Photography.
[00:59:51] Sewing.
[01:02:22] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[01:04:10] Naomi’s novel.
[01:06:58] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[01:08:06] There is more to epidemiology than just numbers.
[01:11:24] Finding out more about Naomi and her work.

Topics/Resources/People Mentioned

  • Outbreak (1995) (IMDB)
  • The EpiCentre
  • Campylobacter jejuni (wiki)
  • Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) (CDC)
  • European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (EPIET) (ECDC)
  • Cryptosporidium (wiki)
  • Norovirus (wiki)
  • Pharmacoepidemiology (wiki)


  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis BookDepository GoodReads
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow BookDepository GoodReads
  • Mary Beard BookDepository GoodReads
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Madeline Miller BookDepository GoodReads
  • Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini BookDepository GoodReads
  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez BookDepository GoodReads

Find out more about Dr Naomi Boxall and their work

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