Inspirational student graduates with distinction in public health

A woman who came to the UK from Hungary in 2005 graduates today (11/12/23) with a Master in Public Health at The University of Manchester, receiving a distinction.

Mother of three Eliza Varga is also the first recipient of the Sally Bradley Memorial Prize, given to high achieving students studying public health.

Dr Bradley, a former GP, Director of Public Health in Manchester and Medical Director was tragically killed in a terrorist attack while holidaying in Sri Lanka.

Her brother Lord Keith Bradly - a Labour Party politician and honorary special advisor to The University of Manchester - created the award in his sister’s name.

Lack of funds forced Eliza to abandon a degree in Hungary, and a few months later she found herself living in a tiny room in Wilmslow.

She immediately found work and, as her language skills improved, so did her job opportunities, eventually moving to Stockport where she met her husband Josh.

In 2010, she enrolled at The University of Manchester and graduated in zoology in 2015.

My university journey was as much about personal growth as it was about academic achievement. I discovered my resilience and ability to keep going despite the challenges in the hope of one day being able to help others

Eliza said: "I always loved animals as my family kept some livestock in Hungary, so I studied Zoology. Being a mature student posed its challenges, but the university’s foundation year program offered me a gateway to a new life.

"My journey wasn’t smooth; but The University supported me throughout, allowing me to graduate with good results and people wanted me to succeed."

In 2021 Eliza enrolled in the Master of Public Health programme at The University of Manchester, because she said, of its reputation for trying to better understand and address health inequalities.

Manchester was one of the first Universities to run an online public health programmes, and now has have over 2000 alumni from 80 countries over the 20 years it have been going.

Eliza added: "As a mother of three young children, I had to study at night, managing a household, and facing financial and other challenges. It was a Herculean task.

"The online option was brilliant: online is so much more inclusive to people with other commitments in their lives.

"My university journey was as much about personal growth as it was about academic achievement. I discovered my resilience and ability to keep going despite the challenges in the hope of one day being able to help others.

"I would like to thank my family, friends and my wonderful teachers at the University, especially, Professor Arpana Verma, I am so grateful they believed in me."

When asked what Sally Bradly Memorial Prize meant to her, Eliza said: "This award symbolises the intersection of my personal journey with the legacy of an inspiring figure in public health, Dr Sally Bradley.

"It motivates me to continue making meaningful contributions to the field, honouring both Sally’s memory and the support I’ve received throughout my studies."

Building on her journey, Eliza now has a job focusing on inclusive research and intends to pursue her research career with a PhD, here at The University.

Professor Arpana Verma, who leads the Master’s programme in public health was a colleague of Sally Bradley.

She said: "We are so incredibly grateful to Lord Bradley and Sally’s family for this prestigious award. Being able to celebrate Sally’s life and achievements through the prize that is given to one of our own masters student who has excelled in the programme and lives and works in the city that Sally was so proud of.

"Sally was a mentor to me and so many of my colleagues during her time as Director of Public Health in Manchester and Medical Director of Pennine Acute NHS Trust.

"Eliza has not only gained a distinction in her degree, she produced a high quality dissertation for Manchester City Council and we thank David Regan, Director of Public Health for his help with both the research and the development of the prize."

She added: "We are proud of our flexible online learning Masters in Public Health that facilitates higher education for students who have to juggle work and caring responsibilities.

"Our University’s Flexible Learning Strategy exemplifies the vision and progress for lifelong learning we embody through bringing online education to a population that may not previously have been able to study.

"We celebrate today’s graduation ceremony as a tribute to Sally’s legacy, Eliza’s achievements and the achievements of all our students."

Lord Keith Bradley said: "I am extremely grateful to the University for approving this new award in memory of my dear sister Sally.

"Sally made a huge contribution to health in Manchester and Eliza is a very worthy recipient of this award in Sally’s memory.

"Eliza will contribute to the work of public health which is so vital to the wellbeing of our local population."

Images: Eliza’s children Zack (6.5), Eli (4.5), and Evelyn (3) with Husband Josh; Eliza