Dina Khan graduated from MSc Public Health by Distance Learning in 2013. Here she talks about her experiences studying for the degree…
“This may sound like a very childish thing to say but really ‘it was my dream’ to gain a Masters (and hopefully, PhD) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In the earlier years of my career with WHO, I learnt tremendously by working with highly qualified epidemiologists, statisticians and public health professionals in the organisation. But I never had any formal training in public health and it was my desire to get the training and degree from a prestigious institute like the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Distance Learning/International Programmes offered by the University of London was the best option for me especially with work, family, home and other social and professional commitments. It gave me the flexibility of doing the studies at my own pace and at my own time.
I enjoyed the flexibility of the programme in many ways and not only in terms of being able to study through distance learning. In addition to the core subjects (compulsory courses) the programme offers many other courses (which is not possible in many universities as they have a fixed Masters programme). For instance, though I was in the main stream Public Health degree programme, as electives I chose HIV/AIDS which is part of the Infectious Diseases programme. I also took a few management courses such as Health Care Evaluation, Organisational Management, Organisational Behaviour. I felt that it provided me with a very diverse learning background, as having a medical background I never had any exposure to these concepts.
In spite of being an international student and part of the distance learning programme I never felt mislaid or isolated (which was my biggest fear before starting the programme). The student handbook is so precise, comprehensive and covers all aspects of the programme that I felt that I had all the information that I needed. Moreover, all the other necessary materials and information were available and constantly posted on the school website. We were always reminded of all the deadlines or any other important communication from the administration.
The Public Health Support team and all the other administrative staff were extremely supportive and understanding that it made the whole process of studying enjoyable.
Interacting with other participants and especially with tutors was a unique experience particularly in the first year of my studies. Through the web board I found my ‘study buddy’ and later we become good friends. In the last two years my project report supervisor became my mentor. I learnt tremendously during the preparation of the project report and there is an immense sense of achievement.
The skills I learnt while studying epidemiology and biostatistics courses have helped me tremendously in developing research proposals in terms of methodology, study design, sample size, determining study population and data analyses. Moreover, I also developed certain management skills by taking courses such as Organisational Management which are very useful when one is working in a team and with partners in different organisations.
Before taking the current position my past work with the WHO has been in the area of reproductive health, maternal and child health. In the last 10 years I have worked a lot in the area of adolescent reproductive health, particularly on ‘Pregnancy in adolescence’ and ‘Early Marriage’. With this research interest and experience after moving to Lebanon I started working with Palestinian refugees living in the camps in Lebanon. I developed a programme to provide better life options for Palestinian refugee adolescent girls and young women living in the camps. The programme has three components: 1. health education; 2. skills training; and 3. social and cultural activities. All the girls enrolled in the programme are out of school, many of them have never been to school, and they are all between the ages of 15-24 years. I have been running this programme in the Palestinian refugee camps for 3 years and am now in the process of launching a similar programme for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon.
Principles of Social Research and Health Promotion Practice are two courses that provided me with the better understanding of effectively reaching the community and designing and successful implementation of the programme.
I occasionally teach as a visiting lecturer for the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and more regularly at the Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan (the university I studied at). I have been teaching a course on ‘Reproductive Health in developing countries’ and the knowledge I gained through courses on Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Principles in Social Research, Public Health Policy, Health Economics and Health Care Evaluation has added a different dimension to my teaching.
I would very strongly recommend anyone who wants to do an MSc in Public Health should consider the University of London International Programmes. And actually, I have already recruited one (who is already enrolled) and two others are on their way – probably preparing for next year.
The reasons being – the flexibility of the programme, convenience of doing it by distance learning and the good standard of education. I would also warn that distance learning is not easy in fact it is a very demanding programme, but the result is very rewarding. One needs a certain discipline in terms of time management, setting targets and achieving them. “