I witnessed firsthand how much pain and suffering a poorly managed healthcare sector can bring for patients. I realized that in a country with limited resources, we had every incentive to optimize and innovate, not only to make do but to thrive under perilous conditions", says Sergio Flores.
Sergio Flores is 30 years old and comes from Tegucigalpa in Honduras. Before he came to Sweden he took a Medical Degree at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras and took a postgraduate diploma at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica. He now holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health with a specialization in health economics from Umeå University and the Department of Epidemiology and Global Health.
The studies for a medical degree gave Sergio Flores an idea of what he wanted to do.
"After eight years of medical school, I still needed to learn more if I wanted to make a positive impact on as many lives as possible and help policy-makers make the right decisions. I know that I can´t help everybody, but I am not alone", says Sergio Flores.
Wanted to learn more
He wanted to learn more, but could not find the kind of education he wanted in Honduras.
Sergio Flores, Umeå University's Global Swede 2021
"There was no health economics programme in my home country, so I applied to several programmes abroad. The description of Umeå University's courses in global health and epidemiology sounded very attractive to me, incorporating a solid public health base followed by a health economics specialization", says Sergio Flores.
"This, coupled with Sweden’s values, the high reputation of the university among international students, the strong research and equity focus the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health promised, and the unique features and balance that the city offers made me choose Umeå over other universities in Sweden or other capitals in Europe. Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets about my choice", he continues.
A new perspective on public health
The education gave Sergio Flores a new perspective on public health and he learnt hard skills from courses such as biostatistics, epidemiology and health economic evaluations.
"What was so great about the Master’s Programme in Public Health with a specialization in health economics was that the 'main course' of the health economics specialization is accompanied by several very important side dishes, such as qualitative methods in research, project management, and econometrics", he says continuing.
"Sweden’s educational system is world-class, with access to top academic resources, state-of-the-art campuses, and a strong research orientation. However, it's different from other countries in the sense that it won’t bury you under severe stress from cramming in several courses at once. I would also highlight the experience of meeting people from so many backgrounds in a cosmopolitan, academic environment. It's fascinating (and humbling) to get to know so many perspectives, stories, and cultural traits different from your own."
During his medical studies, Sergio Flores was the general coordinator of all medical students in their last year in Honduras, representing them at negotiating tables with authorities and acting as spokesperson in the media. He also gained a small grant from the Panamerican Health Organization to measure metabolic syndrome prevalence in fellow students
Founded the first and only health cooperative
After he graduated from medical school, he founded the first and only health cooperative in his country and his own private company. The cooperative secured a European Union grant to fund an innovative telemedicine initiative in the most remote region of Honduras.
His private company provided prepaid medical packages to uninsured Hondurans through a preferred provider organization.
Sergio Flores was in May appointed Umeå University's 2021 Global Swede. It's the Swedish Institute which, on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, invites Swedish universities to nominate a student from a country outside the EU/EEA to the title of Global Swede. The award is given to active, committed and enthusiastic students who are excellent in areas closely related to innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship, and have shown that they are great representatives of their own country as well as Sweden.
Improve the lives of people in Latin America
"I feel deeply honoured and grateful for representing Umeå University and the Department of Epidemiology and Global Health, my postgraduate alma mater, and a place that has given me so much over the past couple of years", he says. Sergio Flores has a plan. He wants to keep learning about health economics.
"I would love to continue gaining cutting-edge experience and connections in a Swedish organization dedicated to health economics. My ultimate professional goal is to gain the optimal combination of knowledge, experience, and resources to improve the lives of people in Latin America", concludes Sergio Flores.