Interview with postgraduate student, Zubair Shams, MSc Global Health
Zubair Shams from Bangladesh studied MSc Global Health student from the Institute for Global Health & Development (IGHD) at QMU and was also a Commonwealth Scholar.
Before arriving at QMU, Zubair had already completed dental degree in 2002 and a public health degree in 2007. Since then, he had been working in different health programmes in Bangladesh and immediately before starting the MSc in Global Health at QMU, he was working for Save the Children International in the Bangladesh office.
Throughout his career, Zubair has worked in urban health, maternal and child health programmes, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS intervention for key populations and people living with HIV/AIDS. He was also the lead in planning, implementation and supervision of Operational Research at both facility and community level.
In addition to his clinical and public health degrees from Bangladesh, Zubair has completed a course in Operational Research (OR) at MSF-Luxembourg and The Union, Paris, as well as studying epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
In addition to having some peer-reviewed international publications on maternal and child nutrition and abstracts accepted at conferences in Thailand, Malaysia, the USA, Canada and The Netherlands, Zubair has been involved in programme monitoring and evaluation.
Why did you choose to study MSc Global Health at QMU?
“The MSc Global Health is a much needed degree for any professional who wants to build a career in the health development sector, both in and beyond their own country. I was drawn to the key aspect of this course, which focuses on health systems management globally, particularly in fragile and post-conflict areas.
“With a strong interest in research, I was keen to hear about IGHD’s international research collaborations, and this helped me decide to come to QMU. All these things influenced me to apply for this challenging and interesting global health course.
“Everyone has an ambition and without it, you cannot move forward in your life. I considered this course as continuing personal development rather than a change of career, because I had already spent almost eight years working in public health before joining my second master’s degree programme. I hoped to be able to have some good opportunities in the future to join in a regional position of an international development organisation.”
Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?
“Edinburgh is world-famous, known for its tourism, and Scotland is known for its friendly people and the high quality of its education. Despite the relatively cold weather, my love of travelling and Scottish music kept my interest.”
How did you find the workload and support at QMU?
“I found the workload manageable. It may be because of my previous master’s experiences.
“I received support from both the academic staff and senior PhD students at different points in time. They gave us enough time to develop any new skills and knowledge. In addition, support from my supervisor in relation to my field research in Ghana was highly appreciated.
Did you receive any scholarships or awards at QMU?
“I was one of the two Commonwealth Shared Scholarship awardees in 2015-16 in QMU, which is very prestigious for any students coming from the developing world. Therefore, I did not have to do any additional work to meet my study expenses.
“I was also selected for both The Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester Scholarship, Scotland and a QMU Bursary. This helped me conduct my field research in Greater Accra, Ghana.”
How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills/knowledge to development your career?
“It allowed me to learn more about overall health system management of high, middle and low income countries. The exercises with various gender-based frameworks definitely equipped me to formulate any future research project proposal.
“I learned how to analyze policy documents critically, increased my implementation skills of communication strategies and the group presentations helped in team building.
“The course gave me opportunities to learn about the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), which affected sub-Saharan African countries, and also TB control programmes. The flexibility to be able to do an independent study module and compare TB control programmes and their integration in maternal care in two high TB burden countries - Bangladesh and Ethiopia - was a major learning point for me.”
What top tips would you give prospective postgraduate students based on your own personal experience?
“For those whose first language is not English, prepare yourself to meet a language barrier! There were challenges in transforming thoughts and ideas into written work, but QMU has a great Effective Learning Service (ELS) to support international students with their academic writing.
“Having the well-resourced computer labs, journal access, and the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) always helped us to improve our vocabulary and concepts. Also, be ready for challenging working patterns when doing group work. Every student should acknowledge cultural diversity and show respect for different levels of understanding.”
What are you doing since graduating from QMU?
“After leaving QMU, I was involved in voluntary work for a few days in Edinburgh with First Aid Africa to research on injury related diseases like snake bite as emergency response. Back in Bangladesh, it was quite difficult to get a job immediately after return. However, I was accepted as field epidemiologist with the humanitarian medical organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), as part of its pool of international volunteers.
“I later rejoined Save the Children in Bangladesh country office as Manager (Monitoring & Evaluation and Research) in HIV/AIDS Programme under the Health, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS sector. I’m grateful to have this promoted position.
“Currently, as part of the programme, I’m involved in assessment, surveying, and operational research. With this, I’m keen to build collaborative research projects. In the future, I’d like to contribute to global health research, positioned anywhere around the world.”
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