I grew up in a society where certain professions are glorified. People give more importance and respect to doctors, engineers, accountants, and lawyers and are assumed to earn a considerable salary.
Growing up, I always dreamt of working in the health sector and being a doctor was it for me, I simply couldn’t envision myself doing something else. My interest in medicine was not born out of the prestige of being a doctor but out of passion to help people.
So, at the beginning of my senior secondary years, I enrolled in science classes to achieve my goal of becoming a doctor. What started to be a well thought career goal ended up in a sea of confusion, with me trying to find my way back to shore, struggling through titanic ocean tides and conflicting currents.
Please stick with me as I walk you down memory lane of how I became a public health professional.
The Face of Reality
In the last year of my senior secondary school, I enrolled in my school’s boarding system to prepare for my final year’s exam. This exam is a national exam, and it is compulsory for all last year students, as it is a requirement for admission into the university. I sat for the exam and prayed for a good outcome, but it was not as expected when the results came back.
The grades I got were not enough to get me into medical school, so I researched other options I could consider and found public health. I explored public health further, and I was intrigued. I researched schools that offered public health and applied right away.
The New Beginning
Starting this new course (public health) and living in a new country was one of the best times of my life. When I began taking subjects in public health, I was introduced to a whole new dimension of health. I emerged from a place where I understood health as only the absence of disease and injury to an entirely holistic view of health.
A healthy person has complete physical, social, mental, and spiritual well-being.
I had a wonderful time studying public health in my first degree. It was opportune to attend public health seminars and listen to professionals talk about public health. I wrote reports on workshops I attended, which in turn helped develop my report-writing skills.
I also took part in a real-life public health campaign. The campaign was called “Health Lives Here” . I took part in the planning and implementation process, and was also a health promoter, where I talked about the importance of living a healthy life and how to live a purposeful life.
The Benefits of Health Research
Research is an essential part of public health. Through research, solutions to complex health issues have been found, which have led to improved health and well-being. I took a public health research writing course as part of my subject requirements. I learnt how to conduct public health research, the difference between qualitative and quantitative research and where they are used.
This skill was helpful for me when I worked as a research assistant for a faculty member. The four years I spent studying public health as my first degree sharpened my knowledge, and I developed certain core skills in public health.
Gaining the Edge in Health
Then I applied for a master’s degree in public health. A Master’s degree is more advanced than an undergraduate degree. It was a bit challenging, but I could adapt quickly because of my public health background.
My master’s studies took place during the pandemic. Following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) on updates about the pandemic, I could now see what we learnt in class in action. Eg. How incidence and prevalence rates were determined, and how they used preventive measures to curtail the diseases. This made me appreciate public health far more.
Public health is a field that is often undermined, but the improvements in health status, increase in life expectancy, and advancement in medicine are all thanks to public health. Public health studies disease patterns and trends and explains why a population will contract a disease and another will not. Through public health, we now understand how our physical, economic, political, and social environments affect our health.
Public Health and Medicine
We are in a digital world now, and in every organization, structured data is needed for development. Public health is using data science to optimize health outcomes. Many employers are looking for public health data analysts, and I have decided not to take a back seat in this growing digital world. I am taking a short course in data science to add to my skill set, which will give me an edge in the public health field.
This is my journey so far, and I am still gradually discovering myself and getting better.
I learnt through my experiences that life is not a bed of roses, a day for you and a day against you. We should take a positive perspective on our challenges – perhaps there might be good in them, which may not be evident yet.
When life throws a lemon at you, make lemonade. Take every challenge and mishap as an opportunity to grow stronger and be a better version of yourself. The reward for patience and perseverance is always tremendous beyond imagining, and there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.