The menu of a pizza place lists many different kinds of pizza, like Margherita, Hawaiian, etc. They all look good, so a little taste of everything…
The Graduate School of International Health Development is just like this: a mixed pizza. Tropical Medicine, Maternal and Child Health, Project and Program Management, Cultural-Medical Anthropology, economics… It’s nice to taste so many different things, but the stomach can only take one bite of each.
So after taking one bite, what do I do with it?
The difficulty of this Graduate School is in creating your own panoramic view by putting the pieces of studies together. To do this, you must ask yourself “what can this field of study do? What can it not do?” and then discern the scope of the field. In particular, “what it cannot do” is something that university professors rarely teach.
If you order a mixed pizza and you get a jumble of Margherita and Hawaiian toppings, it probably won’t taste so good. If on the same pizza dough, the toppings should be separated. This way, you can enjoy the taste you want, when you want it.
When I was working at a school for disabled children in Fiji with the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, I saw with my own eyes the dire need that the local people have toward living a healthy life, regardless of whether they are disabled or not. My desire to do something about this is what brought me to this Graduate School.
Being among classmates with medical backgrounds, I worried about what I could do in this field, and during classes on medical subjects, I had many questions filling my head. It was a difficult first year for me.
In my second year, I interned with the Nagasaki University Overseas Research Station Fijian Branch/JICA Project for Strengthening EPI in the Pacific Region, where I received practical training, and then conducted investigation and research on “Factors influencing the uptake of childhood immunization in Fiji.” Being on-site involved with international cooperation for eight months was a valuable experience, enabling me to see the reality of good things, things that need improvement, and how powerless I am.
Right now I work as an NPO employee in Tajikistan, which is in Central Asia, where I create ideas, manage projects, etc. in the fields of support for disabled persons and healthcare. The days spent with my classmates at the Graduate School with the support of the professors and office staff were mind-boggling. With this memory close to my heart, I intend to fulfill my responsibilities in this new environment.
Prior to graduation, I was dispatched to the JICA Kenya office as a healthcare planning and research staffer in March 2010. Before enrolling in the Graduate School of International Health Development, I worked in Japan as a nurse, and at the same time, served as a medical coordinator of a Japanese NGO for 17 years, involved in a wide range of activities such as slum district development in Kenya, emergency medical support in refugee camps, and healthcare activities targeting nomads. However, having so much practice and experience with no academic knowledge to back them up, I gradually began to question my international healthcare activities. This is why I enrolled in this Graduate School to earn my MPH. An MPH is currently an essential passport in the field of international healthcare, but having to learn various subjects from statistics to cultural anthropology is very difficult. However, this is what provides students the ability to handle any worksite and any situation. In my case, my place of internship was UNICEF Kenya, but the only long-term experience and knowledge I had were with my NGO. In JICA, an unknown territory that is my current workplace as well, the size and target of projects were different, and in addition, planning and research staff are required to do all sorts of things outside the field of international healthcare, such as logistics and accounting.
However, I am equipped with the knowledge learned at the Graduate School of International Health Development; the experience gained through field trip and internship program; the network of classmates and professors; and the willpower that allowed me to manage housework, child rearing and studies all at the same time. I hope that these tools will help me grow into someone who can handle difficult situations and is needed in the international healthcare scene.
(Photo: A child’s classroom)