Journey of an MPH student

August 11, 2014 by

I am a public health practitioner and a physician by training. I grew up in a small town in the north of Bangladesh. After finishing tenth grade I came to Dhaka and continued my studies. I finished my bachelors in medical science, worked in two of the biggest national dailies as a writer and photographer and involved myself with community service.

My work as a physician and a mentor of a youth-based non-profit helped me to connect with people from every tier of society and listen to their story. I always wanted to go beyond simply working for the underprivileged.

In Fall 2012, I was selected as one of the delegates from Bangladesh to take part in a USA State Department-funded exchange programme for developing community service organisations. The programme gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about the work of non-profit organisations, research institutions and civil service groups. I visited universities, independent bodies and research groups who work exclusively for human rights and advocating pragmatic changes, and I knew what I would do after returning from my trip.

I came back to Bangladesh and started searching for a path where I could utilise my training as a physician, skill of a writer and photographer and bring the voices of the underprivileged in the mainstream. I found BRAC University’s James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) and enrolled myself right after finishing my internship as a clinical physician.

This was a life-changing experience. In the midst of our extensive one year masters of public health (MPH) programme with a batch of multicultural students, I became more interested in digging up stories of people affected by poverty or a lack of education. How did a household end up with three arsenic-contaminated tube wells when all they ever wanted was to show their upgraded socioeconomic status? Why did a seven-year-old boy have to walk an additional 35 minutes to go to school every day after breaking his arm crossing a shako (a single bamboo bridge)? Or the history of the miscarriage of a nine-month pregnant mother while she was in labour pain and had to walk for two hours to reach the nearest health complex.

To find these answers, our unique MPH programme took us on a journey into the health system of Bangladesh, different cultural paradigms, strategies of policy advocacy and pragmatic problem solving. After completing the coursework, I decided to explore the catastrophic health expenditure in the north as my thesis work. In the end, I came to know some harsh realities of the ever-struggling population of our country. Their stories were not reaching policymakers and this inspired me to take public health research as my career path help shed light on these unheard voices.

Experience as a public health student is completely different than being a public health professional. I came to know that after starting my first job as a research associate at JPGSPH. It challenges you to make instant decisions and take responsibilities. It demands you to go out and find the answer in the midst of the chaos of our everyday lives.

And I absolutely love it.

The challenging but inspiring masters programme that JPGSPH offers may not give all the solutions to your questions as a public health researcher, but it instilled me with the ability to work in a team, find innovative solutions and be persistent with whatever I am working for.

Find out more about JPGSPH’s MPH programme here, or view the flyers for national or international students.

Dr Hasan and his colleagues were the ninth batch of graduates from BRAC University’s JPGSPH MPH programme.

Dr Hasan and his colleagues were the ninth batch of graduates from BRAC University’s JPGSPH MPH programme.