Name: Marie-Alice Deville
Born: Reims, France
Profession: Parasitic Disease Control
Working for a charity can be very rewarding...whether it be helping people in your own city to people in a whole other continent! One of the many important charitable works is bringing aid to and improving the health of third world countries. We talk to Marie-Alice about what it's like to work for a department of infectious disease and epidemiology to develop health programs in Africa.
What is a Program Manager of a Parasitic Control Initiative?
A Program Manager can be almost anything, but as part of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), we work closely with the Ministries of Health of Sub-Sahara African countries, epidemiologists, mathematical modelers and statisticians in order to develop safe and efficient strategies to control or eliminate 7 Neglected Tropical Diseases which affect the poorest of the poor. Personally, I supervise our programs in Rwanda and Burundi.
What is a typical day like for you?
When I am in the office, my day is mostly taken up by e-mailing/phoning my colleagues in the Ministries of Health of Rwanda and Burundi to deal with specific issues relating to the health programs SCI is running there in collaboration with them. In this job, I need to be able to deal with budget/financial issues as well as logistical or human problems.
The best part of my job is that I get to travel to Rwanda and Burundi all the time and work with the local population! It's great to actually see the results of my hard work when I go there and watch all the kids running around, much healthier and happier than before we treated them.
Other parts of my job are: reading the latest scientific papers, World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and any other documents published on our diseases of interest; writing scientific papers about the results of the studies we do on our diseases in parallel with our health programs, in order to show how successful our programs are; going to conferences; meeting with potential donors (SCI is a charity so we do do need our lovely donors!)...
All in all it's pretty exciting!
You just won a million dollars. What's the first thing you'd do?
Invest half of it to make more for later and pursue my own humanitarian work with the other half
Did you always want to be in this sort of job?
Nope but I always wanted to do a job with a humanitarian side to it. I started as a Researcher in Molecular Biology, working on a human blood disease which affects mostly the poor population leaving around the equator. But then I found it too far removed from the action and moved on to be a program manager for SCI.
What courses in high school prepared you for this field?
What I learnt then and use the most now would be Biology, Math, Languages in general and especially Latin and Greek.
What's one thing you can't do but really want to be able to?
Anything arty (singing, drawing, painting, writing...)
Where did you go to university?
I did 2 years in Reims, France; 1 year in Orsay-Paris XI, France and 1 year in Montreal at McGill. Then I did my PhD in Lyon, France.
How did you decide where to go?
Simple really, the first 2 years of Uni in France are quite general in terms of what you learn, so I did them in my local Uni. That's when I decided I wanted to do Biology, so then I aimed for one of the most renowned French Uni for Biology. After a year there, I took on the opportunity that was given to me to go and study abroad both because I wanted to improve my level of English but also because I strongly believe that living in different countries and being exposed to different cultures really opens up your mind to what life really is about. And McGill was an obvious choice when it comes to Unis specifically good in Biology.
For my PhD, I first chose a city with good research labs but also with a good standard of life because you need to like where you live if you're going to work hard. Then I selected my research group because I wanted to study a human disease affecting poor and neglected people.
Was there extra training required for this career after you finished university? If so, what?
I had the perfect background to be a researcher but I definitely don't have the typical background for my new job. Funnily enough though, all learnt during my time as a researcher helps me a lot in my everyday tasks. In research, I gained organizational, analytical and communication skills which are essential to what I do know. And they were sufficient to get me the job!
But, since then I have done some extra training in infectious disease epidemiology, mathematical modeling and finance management.
What is the coolest part of your job?
Traveling, meeting Ministers and other important people is super-cool but the fact of witnessing that what we do makes a difference is definitely the coolest part.
What's the worst part of your job?
The traveling again. It is the coolest and the worst part because it means that I am away from home a lot (and I mean A LOT!). It takes some special efforts to keep a balance in your family life when you travel so much.
What's your zodiac sign?
Ooooops! Everyone makes mistakes so what was the dumbest thing you've ever done at work?
Missing a very important meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on my very first trip for the job because I got to the airport to take my plane having left my passport at home!
Any advice that you would give others seeking a similar career?
If you want to work for a charity or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO),add some volunteering jobs on your CV and go to the interview having done your homework about the charity/NGO you're applying to so to show your enthusiasm.
What is the last movie you saw? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
"Totsi". Thumbs up, definitely!
What are some great web links or references for someone interesting in reading up more about this career?
Our own website is
but any charity would have program managers and a website. If you want to do it, you'll find it!