Donald Salami is one of our former graduates who now tutors the HIV/AIDS module. He has recently been successful in gaining a Scholarship from the Foundation for Science and Technology, (FCT) Portugal to study a PhD at NOVA University of Lisbon and University of Porto, in Portugal

We wanted to know about his period studying at Peoples-uni, and how this helped him to reach his goals. A nice chat became a very interesting interview where Donald shared his views and his experience with us, a must-read text to understand how Peoples-uni can make a change in people’s lives.

Donald, please tell us a bit about your work before you enrolled with Peoples-uni, and why did you decide to study for an MPH with Peoples-uni?

Before my enrollment in Peoples-uni, I was working as a clinical research coordinator for HIV drug trials and preventive research. As exciting as conducting clinical research was to me, I always felt a disconnect with the research setting of few patients and implementation in a real world setting in a large population. To this effect I became more interested in the peculiarity of implementing public health in developing countries and its variety of crucial issues. Hence I wanted to equip myself with skills needed to appreciate and analyze public health problems within developing countries.
The choice of Peoples-uni was primarily because of two reasons:

  1. Strong recommendation by a colleague who was enrolled in the program at the time
  2. It was very affordable in comparison to other online MPH programs.

How did the education you received from Peoples-uni impact on your working life in public health?

My education from Peoples-uni had a significant impact in my career path and pursuits, because shortly after graduating from the MPH program, I switched careers from core clinical research to strategic information and monitoring & evaluation of public health programs. Peoples-uni offered me that necessary vital step to the new possibilities and opportunities of a life time career in public health.

My recollection of lessons learnt that were greatly beneficial to my job comes from the discussions/modules covering the determinants of health and disease control in developing countries – the success of any population based intervention is largely dependent on understanding the health determinant for the target population, not just biological/medical but cultural, social and economic determinants/barriers. This learnt skill was put to practice in a community based active TB case finding program, in which I was a project manager. The success of this intervention which targeted at Nomads and Wandering Street Boys and Adults, can be attributed to our approach of considering all determinants to health for this population, and then customizing an intervention to fit their needs. We succeeded in establishing a sustainable community volunteer driven Tuberculosis Care program to enhance TB case findings among these vulnerable groups – volunteers were taken from among the population, people that had adequate understanding of the cultural, social and economic determinants and barriers to their access to health care.

Congratulations on getting a PhD scholarship!  Could you tell us about that, and what are your plans for the PhD, and beyond?

My scholarship is for a PhD in global public health conducted by 4 Portuguese schools located in 2 Universities in Portugal. The program aims to provide needed competences to not only become a qualified researcher in public health, but to deliver these competences within a global context.  It reaches beyond the aims of public health - the health of the population as a whole – to improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide.
Even though at this point my PhD thesis is not fully firmed and decided upon, my strong interest and inclinations are towards researching disease outbreaks and surveillance systems and their effects on global health (which was a field I worked in briefly before starting my PhD).  
The recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika viruses have no doubt brought the world’s attention to global health, but most importantly raises questions about how the rapidly increasing international travel and trade affect health and disease spread, and how the effects of development or under-development in one region of the world affect the lives and health of people on the other side of the globe.  My plan is to attempt to contribute some answers to these questions, with particular interest in deciphering the links between global environmental, climate and social changes to human health.
A growing field that captivates me is planetary health and that might just be where my PhD will take me.

You are also tutoring for Peoples-uni on the HIV/AIDs module, which is wonderful.  What are your ideas for Peoples-uni in the future?

The decision to join the Tutors at Peoples-uni – aside from the opportunity to boost my CV – was primarily founded on the golden principle for learning, which is “There is no better way to learn than to teach”.  In learning one will teach, and in teaching one will learn; I am committed to learning - hence my volunteering in the Tutors group.  

Future plans in this regards might be a little sketchy now, as I am not quite certain of how much time I can contribute to being a tutor, but irrespective I will be committed to the HIV module and will be open to research collaborations with other tutors/alumni.

Ideas for Peoples-uni? Nothing stops Peoples-uni from setting up a research institute in public health, to bring together the wealth of knowledge from its students, alumni & tutors.

What is your advice to current and potential future students?

A major gain of the Peoples-uni MPH is the fact that it brings together working professionals from different countries/background and offers a platform to share and learn from the practical experiences/challenges of implementing public health in the real world.

My advice is simple: “As you take on this exciting and challenging step to study public health with Peoples-uni, be assured that your luck will definitely be the meeting of this preparation with an endless opportunity to excel in your current and future career path”.

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