Meet Jaime Miranda, Distinguished Fellow, The George Institute for Global Health

Please tell us a bit about yourself – where did you grow up?

I grew up in Chimbote, an industrial city in the north of Peru. At age 15, I moved to Lima to pursue university studies. My mom was a high school teacher (chemistry and biology) and my dad a mechanic, and they both valued education. Growing up I knew what hard labour looked like, as the two largest industries in town were the fishing factory and the iron factory. From an early age, I knew what ‘being stuck’ meant for a lot of people.

How did you get into health research – what was the inspiration?

My parents gave me the idea to become a doctor. There were no doctors in the family, but I suppose I had the drive to help people, a vocation of service. So that is what I did, and continue to do wherever I am. And why research? After completing my training in medicine and moving to work in Quechua-speaking rural Andes, I landed in London, in the early 2000s, to work on global health teaching. I wanted to do research because I wanted to be part of the world's scientific communication in order to make our contributions from Latin America more relevant.  I understood medicine, but I did not quite understand the related technical scientific jargon used to communicate research in English, e.g. risks, hazard ratios, biostatistical models, etc., all the way to power and processes in global public health. Before moving to the UK I wanted to study medical anthropology, but then, I choose Epidemiology as the subject of my postgraduate training which gave a strong foundation on methods and study design. My motivation to get involved completely in research & being part of the scientific community was driven by knowing I could bring the ‘voice’ of all those underserved people that I’ve have found throughout my trajectory, from family and relatives, from neighbours to communities I have worked with, from colleagues to students. I could help make their experience more visible and more represented.

How has your life and work changed in recent years?

I think I am a living experiment of the adaptation post pandemic. Where do you need to be to conduct impactful research? How do you need to connect? In my career I have been exposed to living and working in low-income areas, I have set up a research team and positioned it on the international landscape as a “model of interdisciplinary research that is scarce in any part of the world”, established and nurtured relationships particularly with younger investigators, and been able to travel (a lot, perhaps too much!) for work, and with the family (in 2018 we took a year to do home-schooling and travel through South America while working from a distance). Remote working is not new for me. Now, to experience the pandemic living in Australia, having the luxury of a first-world zero-COVID approach (at some point) visitor’s view, is something new. I feel that there is a wealth of experiences that inform my research, from playing football (soccer) with a stroke survivor in Sydney to living with poor rural families in Peruvian Andes.  All of this motivates me to continue showing to younger generations, anywhere, who may think that they do not have a chance in science and research that they do, they can be a part of meaningful research. I have had the luxury of mentoring students from poor and rich educational backgrounds, from my local hometown in Chimbote, all the way to Boston or London, to give examples. I suppose that is my biggest drive, to encourage others to get involved and persevere in this aggressive world of research, with humility but also with pride, and that we have a voice!

You have a wonderful way of encouraging connections across different regions. Can you share how this evolved?

This is related to the previous point. I have seen in many spaces that people show their products – their publications, their grants, their positions. but I am genuinely interested in the person behind it. That opens endless possibilities. Otherwise, for those who don’t have anything to yet to show, it will be impossible to be part of and to get in to. This is where I fit in. Because of where I come from and where I have been, I tell them that they have value and can contribute a lot. I am interested in people, not in accolades. The titles and accolades change and are forgotten, the person remains genuine to who they are.

It seems empowering early-mid career researchers is particularly important to the way you work. Is this the case-why?

Early career researchers matter as they are investing their most valuable resource: time. They do that against the odds, the odds of success. I find an obligation to make their experience meaningful. When I approach them (and my team), I tell them, “you do not work for me, I work for you, tell me what you need as I have to know to be able to help you adequately.” Investing in these people has large returns as well.  I am so proud of having touched so many people’s lives and work experiences. I don’t expect all of them to become researchers, but professionals with integrity. That makes me happy.

What would you like your impact as a Distinguished Fellow to be?

To serve as an ambassador between Latin America and a well-established hub of high-quality science in the world, such as The George Institute, and to reach and nurture the next generation of researchers.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Football and asado! I definitely play football (soccer), as much as I can, wherever I go. Also, having family and friends next to an Asado (south American BBQ) is another way of congregating people and sharing.