I chose to undertake my MPH at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine as UNSW offered all of the subjects I wished to take in external format, while other universities seemed to offer only a selection of subjects for external students. I also found it easy to understand how many subjects were required for the degree and liked the flexibility of being able to enrol initially in the MPH, find my feet and then extend to the MHM if I wanted to (which is what I did).
The most important thing I have learned in my studies is how complex health is. Studying the MPH subjects has demonstrated to me the importance of taking a wider perspective on health and well-being, focussing on social determinants of health as much as individual characteristics. Subjects for the MHM degree have demonstrated to me just how hard it is to do this in practice given the complexity of the healthcare system and the politics of health. I have learnt much in both degrees that has helped in my current clinical role, and expect the benefits of new tools, methods and perspectives on healthcare to be long lasting.
The most challenging thing about my studies was keeping up with the work required to excel in each subject while working full-time. There are a lot of essential reading materials for most subjects, and the assignments are always interesting but time-consuming! However, being an external student there is some flexibility in managing the workload and being able to listen to lectures at times suited to my timetable.
The thing I have enjoyed most has been making connections with fellow students from around Australia and around the world. In addition, I have been inspired by many excellent lecturers. I particularly enjoyed doing a summer course. It was more flexible than the usual courses as I attended just a few days and was able to work on the assignments at my own pace.
My message to newly commencing students is plan which subjects to take early so that you cover all the areas you want to during your degree. Speak with the SPHCM office if you are confused about logistics and speak with course convenors if you are considering whether or not to do a particularly subject. Faculty are approachable and helpful.
In the future I see myself as likely continuing in clinical medicine, but perhaps taking on a managerial role as well.