MPH Student Blog - Qali
Why do we do what we do?
Yes, everyone on this course will give somewhat of the same answer when faced with the question of why they applied to this course, ultimately it has to do with helping people. Some of us want to have impact on a global scale, some of us are planning to return to our home countries and make a difference in our community. No matter where we fall on the scale, you and I can both agree that without people there is no Public Health to worry about.
I have spent most of my life travelling and it has shaped the way I view the world. It has allowed me to understand the complexities of different cultures and be able to communicate with individuals from different backgrounds with ease to some extent. To me people are the pulse to any society, and to implement any change you need to understand the context and the needs of the people.
We have a module this semester titled Health Systems Development, where we are taught by the team from the WHO Collaborating Centre, here at Imperial, led by Professor Salman Rawaf and with the help of guest lecturers that are leaders in the field of public health practice from around the world. A couple of weeks ago we were taught about what a ‘Health Needs Assessment’ was, how to carry one out and then were given scenarios to apply our learning to and later were evaluated by other groups on how impactful they thought our recommendations, from our assessment, would be if implemented.
Furthermore, eHealthis an optional module this semester and one of the main themes we looked at was how to implement mHealth and eHealth in a low-income country. The team that taught us had piloted a decision support system app in Malawi. Having previously lived in Malawi myself I can tell you that infrastructure for a health system is close to nothing, where St. Mary’s Hospital has a budget of about 1 billion a year, the entire of Malawi’s GDP is a billion. Some of the limitations that this team faced was that many people they were training had never used a computer before, there was no register for births or deaths in the country and that the technology infrastructure was close to nothing. So how do we adapt to and facilitate public health improvements in such cases?
These experiences, as well as discussions from the Global Innovation module, really shed light on why we do what we do and even more so that our perception of ‘saving the world’ simplifies the responsibility that we actually hold as future public health leaders. We (yes WE) have a responsibility to serve communities, societies and countries, in the sense that we have the skills to empower them, teach them, facilitate and achieve their health needs. The processes that have led to phenomenal achievements for health in one country can not necessarily be replicated for another country. There has to be a certain appreciation and sensitivity to culture and history, it doesn’t involve immersion, but I truly do feel that you cannot understand the subtleties of a people if you are not able to listen to them and open your mind to ways of life different from your own.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I do photography on the side and it stems from my curiosity and observation of people. How can we make sure that a young boy from the nomadic clan of the Masaai in Kenya gets access to health services? How do we educate this tribe about bovine TB and its transmission (since they herd cattle)? How do we make even further leaps in the fight against NCDs in the West? And of those achievements, which can we learn from and scale up to achieve similar success stories in emerging economies around the world?
I usually overthink so I am definitely waffling on, however I think this reflection is also important in our daily lives since the landscape of the world becoming increasingly intermixed in terms of culture thanks to the forces of globalisation.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. —Maya Angelou
Welcome to the MPH Blog. I will be one of the voices that takes you through the eye of the tornado that will be the one-year masters course (well not really a tornado, more like a storm on a beautiful sunny day if Mother Nature will allow such juxtaposition). My name is Qali and like an increasing number of people I have a back story of being born here, originally from there and raised a bit in every other place, the details not being too important. I have visited 25 countries, lived in 6 cities spanning three continents, and speak 4 languages in my 22 years of life… so what made me choose to come to London if the world is truly my oyster?
1. I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the world’s intellectual hubs and what better way to start such an important chapter in my academic career then to be in the home of Florence Nightingale, Thomas Wakley and Sir Alexander Fleming (I could say the Spice Girls but I’m trying to keep to script here)
2. The vibrant arts culture, history and diverse people is like no other and worth taking advantage of…since our lecturers have already told us that we shouldn’t be studying all the time, I know my camera and I will keep you guys entertained.
3. I don’t think I actually have to say this but dear reader it’s “IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON”, it’s in the name… before I even attempt to list the countless Nobel Laureates, contributions to science, engineering and medicine, not to mention the prestigious Silver Athena Award (that works great for a gal like me), I could have gone anywhere to be honest but I chose London because I chose Imperial.
So here we are, based on the St Mary’s Campus, about 3 weeks in and boy if I say it was a smooth transition I would be lying. It’s funny because I think after a full week of inductions all of our feet were in pain and we slowly began to get glimpse into what a marathon we were starting…steady pace and breathing should get us through. However as nervous as I was, what I learnt soon enough is that we have a faculty that is very invested in our wellbeing and us doing well. So although our schedules are intense and the workload will keep us busy, we are taught by people who are so passionate about what they do that it is enjoyable to be in class (and even I’m surprised by what I just said,) let’s look back at this moment in January or July.
Doing the MPH course affords us the chance to be around those at the forefront of population health on a global scale and when we’re not running into the faces that were part of the Ebola Outbreak Response teams, we’re analysing how chocolate and Nobel prizes are related, because that exists… seriously that is actual published work, click to check out the short paper published a few years ago, while I go scoff down more chocolate.
In all seriousness however, the first semester will be a lot about learning the skills and concepts that we will be needing from the next semester onwards and so while statistics and excel aren’t my favourite thing in the world, I recognise that it is a necessity. There is a lot of technical skills we’re being taught so far, from learning about different studies to calculating infectiousness and incubation periods, we are getting number heavy and predicting future outbreaks and just saving the world really (or so I wish, maybe one day).
We had the option of choosing two streams: the general stream and the global health stream, where the two groups differ in one module this term. I chose the latter because it would touch on a lot of things that I have come across through work and the places I have lived, so I feel very much in my element and Thursdays are definitely my favourite day of the week. We’ve had a lot of guest lecturers come in so far speaking about such a range of topics from NGOs to the private sector involvement in governance and health policy. It’s very interesting but of course it also depends on where your interests lie and where you see yourself going in the future (trying to be very unbiased here).
So yeah dear reader, I hope I didn’t bore you with this overview of what it is like to be an MPH student at Imperial College, it’s only been 3 weeks what do I know… but I hope you’ll continue to read on and see what the 2015/16 cohort get up to so stay tuned.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane” — Martin Luther King Jr.