What’s it like to study public health as a postgraduate?
Published 3 Oct, 2023 · 7-minute read
The benefits of studying public health at a postgraduate level are manifold. Hear what they are from these 3 UQ Master of Public Health students.
Ruchita Rajkumar Bhansali, Chrisny Fernando and Yuxuan Liu are all in their final year of postgraduate public health studies. From the best courses to the kind of practical experiences you can get involved in, they uncover what it’s actually like to study public health as a postgrad at UQ, and why you should consider it too.
Which areas of study in public health have you found most engaging?
Ruchita: My fondest memories lie in the Health Promotion series (units 7034, 7035, and 7036), which revealed the potency of evidence-based interventions in transforming a population’s mental health and wellbeing effectively and efficiently.
Chrisny: My favourite course was Managing Global Disease Priorities, as it deepened my love for public health. It also allowed me to understand where I want to journey in my future career.
Yuxuan:Health Systems (PUBH7614) is one of my favourite classes. I completed an assignment analysing Singapore's health system based on 50 articles through literature review. It was challenging but it really stuck with me and helped me gain a deeper understanding of health system construction.
Which public health postgraduate courses and teachers have helped you the most throughout your degree?
Ruchita: All my courses have played a significant role in my personal and professional growth. This happened either through the continuous feedback loop with every assignment or through reflection, which allowed me to express my appreciation and apply the feedback for improvement.
Chrisny: The most helpful teacher for me was Katherine Cullerton, who went above and beyond every lecture and in her classes to ensure that we had an engaging time.
What does your average day look like as a postgrad in public health?
Ruchita: An average day typically involves attending scheduled classes, preparing meals, and completing work at the library while enjoying some bubble tea.
Yuxuan: My day is basically spent between reading and writing assessments. Occasionally I go out and take photos as my hobby.
Did this change between the first and second years of your Master of Public Health?
Ruchita: Things have changed quite a bit in the second year as I now spend more hours in the library reading articles and reviews, exploring the beautiful Brisbane city libraries and collaborating with my classmates. I also fit in fun things like discovering cafés and culture, and embarking on adventures while finishing assignments.
Yuxuan: There is a big difference between the first and second years. I think it's mainly because I've gotten busier with the addition of the professional placement component.
Chrisny first heard of public health when she learnt about infectious diseases in Year 10 geography and has loved everything about it ever since.
What’s the difference between postgrad and undergrad public health studies?
Chrisny: The workload for each course was much higher in comparison to undergraduate degrees, and as a result, I quickly realised I could not complete the same number of casual work hours on the side. I dropped from full-time to part-time study to maintain a balance.
My main advice for postgrad study would be to make sure you allow enough time to self-study. Moreover, don't hesitate to extend your course time if necessary.
What practical experience have you gained during your public health studies?
Ruchita: One of the most fulfilling roles I've had is serving as the postgraduate representative of the UQ Public Health Association (UQ-PHA). I provide support to fellow students and help them access new opportunities. This includes facilitating connections to overcome language barriers and actively participating in the UQ community through events such as the Mentor-Mentee program. These experiences have been incredibly rewarding and engaging.
“My placement at Beacon Strategies has been a transformative experience as well, providing me with a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between academic learning and practical application.”
I've honed my skills in various aspects of strategic management services, including planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating. Additionally, it has given me a deep understanding of Australian working ethics and helped me discover valuable ways to network for both personal and professional advancement.
Chrisny: I am currently completing a placement at Health and Wellbeing Queensland. It has shown me much about the workplace and what I need to expect after graduation.
Yuxuan: I undertook an internship with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) Centre of Research Excellence on Achieving the Tabacco Endgame (CREATE). It gave me a lot of new insights into the implementation and formulation of addictive substances policy and also gave me a lot of networking opportunities.
I’m working on UQ’s Student-Staff Partnership Project at the same time as completing my professional placement and attending classes. Juggling the 3 projects together has been challenging, but it’s also given me the courage to do more intense work later on.
Yuxuan believes that protecting people’s health isn’t just a technical issue. It’s also about popularising health knowledge and promoting the development of health policies.
What can you do with a master’s in public health?
Ruchita: While on placement at Beacon Strategies, I engage in various activities, including benchmarking, desktop analysis, situational analysis, and other aspects of strategic management services in the field of public health.
Beacon Strategies is a project management and consultancy company working in the public health and social services sectors. Directors Elliot Parkinson and Mitchell Stalker are UQ Master of Public Health graduates.
The company’s aim is to help make specialist projects work, and they’ve engaged in everything from suicide prevention plans in Far North Queensland to community care service design, and regional expansion strategies for leading not-for-profits.
Yuxuan: While working at CREATE, I participated in various activities, including policy summarisation, scientific communication blog writing, desktop research and other public health work in tobacco control. These efforts are expected to play a role in the “smoking-free next generation.
Ruchita: My postgraduate experience has given me exciting opportunities to pursue my passion for research. I've been able to apply what I've learned in my courses to real-life situations during my placements and connect with others through volunteering, which has been really valuable.
“I am poised for a future brimming with opportunities, including roles such as health promotion officer and policy officer.”
Yuxuan: I believe that the internship experience, research experience and knowledge I have gained studying the Master of Public Health has prepared me for a successful career in this field.
Ruchita believes the key to preparing for postgraduate study is being open to change, particularly when it comes to people, culture and academic style.
What are the benefits of studying public health at UQ?
Ruchita: I chose UQ for my postgraduate degree because of its prestigious ranking, steadfast dedication to academic excellence, mentorship from esteemed professionals, and the chance to flourish within the dynamic UQ community.
Is UQ the best university to study public health at?