I decided to undertake a Master of International Public Health (MIPH) as I was considering a public health degree as an extension of both my work at MSF Australia (the representative office of international medical-humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders for Australia and New Zealand) where I am employed as a Medical Communications officer and also personal interest. I also have two colleagues who had completed their MIPH at UNSW and spoke of it highly, so it really was an easy decision.
There are a couple of important concepts that have woven through my studies so far. One is the idea of a ‘strengths-based’ approach. You can’t look at a situation or context from a ‘deficit’ point of view, concentrating only on what, in your mind, has gone wrong, or needs to be fixed. You need to harness what’s ‘working’ already, and build on that. At the same time, there’s no point studying an MIPH and then not trying to be an agent of change in some way, because the public health challenges internationally are great, and it feels like there will never be enough attention given to effective approaches to improving the lives of the many people missing out on basic quality of life and well-being in the world. So the aim is to balance the two approaches.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my studies so far has been the exchange of ideas with my fellow students and lecturers. The MIPH student profile is very broad, with a substantial cohort of overseas students. Their presence can’t help but add to the real-time relevance of the content and discussions. Every day our studies have had very practical applications in a context familiar to one of us, or have directly informed a pressing issue receiving media attention either locally or globally.
New students may find the first weeks of study quite daunting, but my advice is not to panic! By Week 5 it truly starts to gel, and you feel very excited at the critical foundation you’ve established for much deeper analysis and lateral thinking.
I came into the MIPH without a set path or destination, but very keen to develop a sharper view of macro and micro global health contexts and how they connect. Studying the MIPH has given me this. I understand that the big picture – the complex web of geopolitical and socio-economic forces, historical and current – cannot be ignored. Yet it should never overwhelm the people-centred ‘small picture’, where results need to be achieved in tangible and lasting ways. I’m confident this perspective is already enhancing my current communications work but I can now offer additional skills including statistical analysis, research approaches and program design. I look forward to deploying as much of this as possible to collaborate with colleagues or partners working in resource-poor settings.