Tomáš Roubal (July 2015)

Tomáš Roubal was born in South Bohemia and he graduated at the IES in 2005. During his studies he spent a semester in Finland, at the Hanken Svenska handelshögskolan, and later another semester in Germany, at Friedrich-Schiller-Universität. During the course of these study stays he was interested in health economics and he focused on this also during his studies at the University of New Orleans, USA. He has devoted his whole career to the field of health economics and health policy. Since 2007 he has been working at the Ministry of Health, as the Main analyst, and later as the Project manager, Advisor to the Minister of Health or Head of division of the health insurance funds regulation. In 2012 Tomáš worked at the OECD in Paris as an Intern. Currently, he is working as a Health economist at the World Health Organization in Pretoria, South Africa. Tomáš spends his free time by reading books, cycling, and practicing Iyengar yoga. He likes travelling as well, mostly back to the Czech Republic.


You have been focusing on healthcare systems for almost all of your career. How did the studies at the IES help you in this career path?

IES provided me with 2 things – economic foundations and thinking and a very good social network. As it was impossible to study Health economics in the Czech Republic, I benefited from studying abroad in Finland, Germany and the US where I applied economic concepts in the field of health economics. As no one was really investigating health economics issues in the Czech Republic, it was relatively easy to get involved in interesting projects. My thesis on hospital payment mechanisms as well as references from IES helped me in getting into the Ministry of Health shortly after finishing the IES.

How did you get the job at the World Health Organization? Do you have some advice or recommendation for those who want to work at this kind of organization?

The competition for jobs at the WHO is global, but there are several ways to join this organization. There are many opportunities already during your studies to get involved in internships or volunteering at United Nations. Follow their webpages and send in your CV or a cover letter. Try to design your thesis around some real world problem in cooperation with some Czech ministries. Analyze data and design some innovative policy with them. International organizations appreciate people with experience from government and research communities. It is important to be willing to learn and explore new ideas.
I got into WHO through recommendations from the OECD. I was nominated as an expert representing the Czech Ministry of Health for several years at OECD. In 2012, I was seconded to the OECD during which I managed to get the attention of some colleagues who recommended me for WHO.

You worked a few months at the OECD. How do you assess this experience? Is the job at the WHO significantly different from the one at the OECD?

OECD is a very vibrant and stimulating environment focused on evidence based policies. You will meet many interesting people from all around the world there. Current economic problems are discussed here, which provides a unique platform for analyzing public policies and their evaluation and mutual learning. I would recommend this experience to anyone who wants to work with a public policy.
WHO South Africa is part of the African region of the WHO, which is quite different from the OECD. People here communicate and collaborate differently and as country office we directly support the South African government. WHO Country office translates international standards into local practice. I work directly with the South African Ministry of Health and with local experts on specific projects such as international comparison of hospital prices, reforming payments of General practitioners and public hospitals, monitoring money flows, calculating demand elasticity for alcohol and measuring the financial risk protection of households.

You are currently living in the South Africa, how would you describe your working conditions and overall quality of life?

The inequalities among people in South Africa are huge. The global consumer-focused culture clashes with the traditional African culture and traditions. Apartheid left deep scars in the society and the poverty you see here is for me very disturbing. On the other hand, I admire their vibrant social society where the progressive Constitutions and human rights provide inspiration and aspiration for everybody. South Africa speaks for Africa, there are many top-level researchers integrated into global research, the private healthcare sector is the largest in the world.
The working conditions here are the best on the African continent, as far as I can judge. It is a perfect place for any type of research of problems of the developed or developing worlds.

Are you considering living permanently abroad or do you plan to come back to the Czech Republic in the future?

I never planned to leave the Czech Republic forever. I really appreciate having this opportunity to work for the WHO, but I do plan to come back home in the long run. Once you start working in such an international organization, there are many other possibilities to work in other countries or international organizations, so I do not have a specific plan to move home, for now.

Do you have a chance to travel in South Africa? Do you have some favorite place?

South Africa is a huge country with the best infrastructure in Africa so you can get around easily. South Africa has it all - the Western Cape with beautiful wine farms, the beaches at the Indian Ocean are full throughout the year, Kruger Park is one of the world's greatest game reserves, the Kalahari desert starts just around the corner... My favorite place is Stellenbosch, the heart of the wine lands in Western Cape, a 20-minute drive to the beach, to Cape Town or into the mountains, all of which surrounded by amazing scenery. For an exchange program I would recommend the University of Cape Town.





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