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Judit Simon

Titel: Univ.-Prof.in Dr.in
Professor of Health Economics
Head of Department of Health Economics

 

Warum haben Sie sich für eine wissenschaftliche Karriere entschieden?
Why did you choose a scientific career?

Initially I did not actively consider it. However, as my professional life developed, I realised that scientific research is a very interesting and fulfilling career option.
While I studied medicine in Hungary, I became also interested in the organisation and economics of health care and decided to do a paralel degree in economics . After finishing my undergraduate degrees, I had the opportunity to complete a master degree in health economics in the UK with the support of a scholarship. Originally I was planning to return to Hungary and specialise in clinical medicine pursuing health economics only as a personal research interest. But then my personal life changed - I met my husband and decided to stay in the UK. At the same time, I was offered a job in London to work as a health economist for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in clinical guideline development. Since I could not have started to work as a clinical doctor anyway (at that time Hungary was not part of the EU yet) and this opportunity seemed like the perfect interdisciplinary job, I accepted the offer.
Pretty quickly I fell in love with scientific research. I also realised that I am very interested in population level research and trying to help patients through this approach instead of focusing on individual persons. Still, it took quite a few years to accept that I will have a professional career as a scientist rather than a clinician. For years, I still tried to keep up with doing also some clinical work. But after my first child arrived, I had to realise that it is not possible to do so many things at a very high level and I had to prioritise. I chose to finish my doctorate studies and fully concentrate on a scientific career. It was very important to me that as a woman I could still have a fullfilling career without sacrifising family life.

 

Wie verlief Ihr wissenschaftlicher Weg?
How is your scientific career going?

I have recently been offered the position of Professor of Health Economics at the Medical University of Vienna to establish a new department in the field. So there are a lot of changes and challenges in my life right now. New country, new culture, new language, new university, new colleagues but I rather see these as new opportunities. One of the very positive things I found about the MedUni Vienna is the ongoing level of gender mainstreaming. As a female scientist, this has also played a significant role in accepting the position. Working with other successful female scientists, like for example Professor Rieder, is a very positive influence.
I am also positively looking forward to the future. I think that we will have some very interesting years coming and I hope that the field of health economics will rapidly develop in Austria. Building up relevant education programmes and research capacity development are among my main objectives.

 

Was sind Ihre Stärken und wie konnten Sie diese für Ihre Karriere nutzen?
What are your strong points and how could you use them for your climbing up the career ladder?

I was gifted with a lot of energy and the ability to multitask and prioritise quite easily. I definitely relied on these a lot over the past years. I also tend to think very positively and I see problems more like challenges than obstacles. I am usually very enthusiastic about what I am doing and I am lucky to find my career so fulfilling. 

 

Was sind Ihre wichtigsten Ressourcen gewesen, um Karriere machen zu können?
Which resources helped you most in pursuing your career?

Definitely my family. My grandfather, who was a teacher, tought me how to learn efficiently and to select important things from the rest. I still rely a lot on this ability. My parents are the best role models for me. They showed me what professionalism mean and how you can still manage to combine career with family life. They are both medical doctors in high positions who are very enthusiastic about their jobs. Nevertheless, they still provided me and my brother with a very nice and supporting family life. More recently, it is the support of my husband that helps most. Without his acceptance of the difficulties of a dual-career family setting, I could not have pursued both career and family life.
I have also had a lot of role models in my professional career. I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of colleagues who clearly understood the struggles of a working mother. I had my children while doing my DPhil and working at the same time and I got a lot of understanding and support both from my supervisors and my boss.
And last but not least, languages. Learning languages has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life. It opens up the world for you, it helps you to understand different cultures and these days it is an absolute necessity.

 

Was war Ihr größter Misserfolg und was haben Sie daraus gelernt?
What has been your biggest failure and what did you learn from it?

I don’t know whether you can even call this a failure, but I continuously struggle with not having enough time. And surely I am not alone with this. But what I have learned over the years is that this will never change. Life is a triangle – I have my work, I have my family and I have myself as an individual. It is not possible to find enough time for all. The only thing you can do is to accept that you are also human and prioritise the best you can. In my case the sacrifice is mostly on the individual side, but this gives me the opportunity to give the most to my family and my profession and I have accepted this trade-off. 

 

War es für Ihren Karriereverlauf hinderlich, eine Frau zu sein?
Has being a woman been an obstacle in your career?

Yes. Even though my husband is very supportive, I definitely have to juggle more with family life. First of all, women still bear most of the consequences of having children - pregnacy, childbirth, maternity leave. But when you want to have a professional career, it is not possible to be out of your work for several years. I was lucky as I managed to stay at home for seven months and nine months with my two children. But even during my maternity leave I continuously tried to keep up on what was going on with my projects, regularly checked my emails, etc. Although this has definitely been a great sacrifice, it really helped me to stay on track. Going back to work was therefore not such a big shock, the transition was relatively smooth.
The time I was out of work due to childbearing still had a significant impact in terms of lacking behind in publications, attending conferences and other networking opportunities. As a mother, I am also much more limited in how much I can travel or how flexible I am in attending events after 4pm. And this of course has a significant negative impact.

 

Falls Sie Kinder haben: Was ist bzw. war an Unterstützung besonders hilfreich?
In the case that you have children – What kind of support has been most helpful for you?

My husband. We do not have nannies, we try to be there for our children. That means you have to have a partner in this, and my husband has been a full partner. 

 

Welchen Ausgleich suchen Sie in Ihrer Freizeit?
How do you balance your work with leisure?

The answer is simple, there is no balance. There is no leisure such as going to the gym, going to the cinema, or going for a meal in a restaurant. This kind of leisure is very limited in my life because this time would have to come from the time I can spend with my children.

 

Tipps und Tricks?
Tips or tricks?

Do not try to plan very strictly your life or your career because you will have a lot of dissatisfaction. If an opportunity is forgone, there will be another one coming. You should try to find the positive and interesting things in everything what life brings. That kind of positive attitude really helps. Trust in yourself is also very important. And choose well your partner...