Interview with QMU graduate, Keven Bermudez, PhD Global Health Research
Keven Bermudez, 54, from Barcelona in Spain has a PhD in Global Health Research from the Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) at QMU.
He enrolled as a part-time IGHD student at QMU in 2009, having already completed a master's degree in Education from Cambridge University in Massachusetts, USA, with a concentration on Counselling Psychology, Mental health specialty.
Keven has extensive field experience in several humanitarian settings, including Cuba, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, East Timor and Ukraine. In these locations, Keven has acted as a protection specialist as part of international humanitarian projects, with an emphasis on building local human resources with capacity to address the psychosocial consequences of war and armed conflict.
How did you come to choose this course and why QMU and IGHD?
“Having been exposed to the psychological care of victims of war and armed conflict, I started to research PhD programs that are directly relevant to the impoverished environments I’d been working in and that would allow me to explore this area in more depth.
“I hoped to eventually work with refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants back in my hometown in Spain, so I was particularly interested in finding this kind of academic programme somewhere in Europe, which would allow me to make valuable connections.
“While reviewing various options, I came across a model of integration that had been developed by the Psychosocial Working Group, and took note of the fact that this Group was coordinated by IGHD at QMU. I immediately enquired into this programme with a sense that it offered the breadth of study I was looking for and was able to maintain a correspondence with IGHD Senior Research Fellow, Dr Alison Strang, who convinced me that this was the way to go.”
Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?
“QMU’s IGHD offers the teaching and learning expertise that enabled me to complete a PhD that was directly relevant to the topic I had been developing through my work – Psychosocial interventions in humanitarian emergency settings. I benefitted from quality supervision by highly trained field staff.
“I didn’t find an alternative programme elsewhere with a similar combined academic and practical focus. I do admit that this was also a perfect excuse to live in one of the most beautiful cities and countries in the world, which made studying away from home much easier.”
Studying in IGHD at QMU
“My hope was that the PhD thesis writing experience would allow me to shape an integral approach to the care of people uprooted by war and armed conflict and would serve as reference in my work.
“I also wished to develop research and analytical skills, academic writing and oral presentations skills.
“I certainly did not want to spend the rest of my career simply applying the ideas of other people. I felt that in my chosen field, it was important to have a voice of my own.
“I found that the major complication was not the workload itself, but setting limits to my reading and writing. Until the very end of my studies, I felt I had not read enough and would have continued writing had I been given more time. My supervisors helped me set limits and frame my research.
“In 2009, QMU awarded me a Santander Universities Scholarship and Research Award to conduct research with undocumented migrants and asylum seekers residing at an emergency shelter in Barcelona, Spain: ‘Social connections and trust among destitute, undocumented African migrants in Barcelona, Spain.’
“Later in my studies continued with my international consultancy work to help pay for my living expenses. My supervisors were very patient in allowing me to progress at my pace.”
How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills and knowledge to development your career?
“I feel that my PhD experience at QMU allowed me to establish a solid basis in research and practice that will serve as guiding reference in my future work.
“Thanks to this experience, I’m able to analyse a variety of factors affecting psychosocial well-being in crisis settings. I’m also able to draw upon available theory to formulate protection interventions, which is what a professional in my chosen field needs in order to make a positive difference.”
Keven’s top tips for future IGHD students
“If I was to do my PhD course at QMU again, I’d read more of the literature in my field and clarify my research ideas further before starting. There isn’t enough time to explore possible research topics, get the knack of academic style writing and read everything you feel is relevant around your chosen topic within the three-year time frame given to complete the thesis.
“I don’t recall encountering any major obstacle towards progress during my studies although developing academic style writing did represent a challenge. My supervisors were very patient in revising my written work and editing.”
Life after graduation?
“Right before the conclusion of my PhD at QMU, I was offered a position as Project Manager in the Central African Republic with an international non-governmental organisation. The role involved implementing and managing a protection project, which aims to socially integrate child escapees from the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
After a full year’s in the Central African Republic, I’m back at home in Barcelona, hoping to develop an association in support of refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, as initially planned. I’ll be applying for State and EU funding to develop protection projects for this needy population.”
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