I chose to enrol at UNSW because the courses offered afforded me the opportunity to contribute to my country’s (Liberia) post war development. Furthermore, the availability of a dual masters program presented me the chance to achieve important competencies in health management and public health, which are vital to my role as a health practitioner, at the same time. The international perspective of courses facilitated my reflection on the prevailing health status of people in my country and helped shape my plans for contributing to improved health.
The most important thing I have learned in my studies is that attaining health within a population requires a multi sectoral approach in an effort to address the social determinants of health. In the absence of consideration for those systems and forces that shape the lives and health of individuals and populations to improve access and equity for health, provision of an enabling environment for a healthy and productive population will remain an enigma. As public health practitioners it is essential that we remain cognizant of these contributing factors to health and integrate them into our programs for attaining health.
The most challenging thing about my studies was being away from my family while my country was ravaged by an Ebola outbreak. The constant fear for their lives made concentration on my studies quite difficult. However, the support system of the university faculty and other students enabled me to successfully complete my studies despite this difficult time.
What I enjoyed most about studying at UNSW are the many opportunities to be engaged and learn with a diverse group of professionals from varying backgrounds. Engaging with staff and students, while creating opportunities for advocacy and improving the health of populations was an enriching experience. Moreover, forming the UNSW Ebola Alliance and the Nepal action group to raise awareness and funds for those affected by the Ebola outbreak and the Nepal earthquakes was a worthy undertaking. Furthermore, the opportunity to speak at the 2015 World Congress on risk analysis, which was facilitated by the school of public health, enabled me share my perspective on the risks and lessons learned from the West African Ebola outbreak.
My message to newly commencing students is to embrace every opportunity to learn, research and experience the wealth of knowledge that awaits them at UNSW. By doing this, you not only learn from others but also share your knowledge, culture and experiences. This enriches the University experience not only for you but also for other students and staff. Through this, you expand your network of contacts and references and bring a broader and more practical international experience to the university.
In the next 5 years, I see myself providing programs that improve the wellbeing and health of women and children in an effort to address the vulnerabilities that continuously contribute to inequities of health in Liberia.
Photography by Nikki To, UNSW International