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Dr Thu Hlaing Min Kyaw completed his Master of Public Health programme in 2013 and is currently based in Myanmar as part of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). He was recently awarded the prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship to further his studies in public health policy and management at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, and will spend a year of study, leadership development and professional collaboration with partners in the United States.
He shares his thoughts on the receiving the Fellowship, why he chose to pursue the field of public health and his public health journey and career since graduating from our School.
Congratulations on receiving the Humphrey Fellowship! Can you share some thoughts on receiving this prestigious scholarship and what's in store for you in this programme?
I’m really happy to receive the Humphrey Fellowship and the opportunity to study in the United States. The US Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar made a preliminary selection for this fellowship in September 2015 and final decision was made 6 months later by the Institute of International Education based in United States in March 2016.
Throughout the programme, I will be receiving professional experiences through networking activities, seminars and conferences. My specialisation for this fellowship will be public health policy and management which I hope to study at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. I also wish to specialise in aid effectiveness with an internship at the World Bank, USAID or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
I look forward to these academic and professional experiences which will help me to be a better public health professional and I hope I can further contribute to my country’s long journey towards Universal Health Coverage.
What led or motivated you to go into the Public Health field and take up a Master of Public Health at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health?
In the course of my medical studies to become a doctor, I came to realise my passion for serving patients and the community. As a medical student, I faced many patients struggling with their illnesses. Being unhealthy deteriorated not only the physical status but also mental and social wellbeing of the patients and their family members. I came to realise that many of the diseases I came across could be easily prevented and treated with proper health education and an effective healthcare system. Hence, this led me to decide to pursue a career in public health after my graduation.
Fortunately, my working experiences with the Myanmar Medical Association (MMA) and Save the Children (STC) organisation were well-suited to my interests and abilities, and have provided me with valuable practical exposure in conducting public health interventions. However, my experiences also led me to realise the need to upgrade my knowledge in order to achieve more professional and effective public health activities.
Hence, I decided to further my studies with the Master of Public Health (MPH) programme at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health because of its reputation and high ranking. Receiving my successful admission as well as the NUS Graduate Scholarship for ASEAN Nationals to pursue my MPH in the School was one of my happiest moments of life.
Can you share some of your most memorable experiences while studying for the MPH?
Studying for my MPH in NUS was one of my favourite experiences in life. I was impressed by the interactive and high standards of the lessons in the school, kind support and helpfulness of my professors and the staff, and the fully equipped infrastructure and materials for students. I fondly recall our Quantitative Epidemiologic Methods (Statistics) lectures with Professor Chia Kee Seng. What I like most about these lectures is that Prof Chia trained us to visualise the overview of statistic methods and how to analyse and interpret data sets in a practical way instead of simply teaching us sophisticated equations. Of course, we also remember his challenging statistics questions whenever we share our school memories!
Since graduating from the School, how has your public health training in the School helped you in your career? What insights and perspectives has it provided you in your job?
Since graduating with my MPH, I have returned to Myanmar and joined the Three Millennium Development Goal (3MDG) Fund Management Office of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). I work for the HIV, TB and Malaria component of the fund as a Public Health Officer and I am responsible for the successful implementation and management of the grants supported by the 3MDG Fund. My job requires me to review and evaluate the proposals, check and clear the progress reports and ensure quality implementation by monitoring visits to implementation partners.
The training I received in my public health education has helped me a lot in handling my job responsibilities. I review behaviour change programmes of implementation partners to evaluate if they are thoroughly designed, and can help the grants to be in line with my country’s current health system. As such, the school provided me not only academic skills but also confidence to handle my public health related job responsibilities.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of pursuing a public health education or a career in public health?
In our rapidly changing and complex world, it is becoming increasingly important of the need for public health professionals in healthcare systems. Developing countries like my country, Myanmar, are still facing healthcare challenges in the form of communicable diseases such as HIV, TB and Malaria while the disease burdens of non-communicable diseases are increasing in those countries. Furthermore, we are constantly challenged with global infectious diseases such as Ebola and Zika. More operational researches, more behaviorial change intervention programmes and more project implementations are needed to handle current public health challenges. Hence, for anyone who is thinking of pursuing a career in public health, I would strongly encourage them to study public health and take it on as a career.
Your journey after SSHSPH is important to us, and we're always on the lookout for stories and updates from our alumni! Kindly share with us your life experiences, professional triumphs or inspiring adventures by emailing your story and photos to Ms Christine Pang at email@example.com.