While there is no denying that all healthcare disciplines offer the opportunity to make a difference and positively impact lives, there is one discipline that stands out especially for creating meaningful change on a large scale: public health.
In this blog, we reflect on the personal journey of our own Public Health courses tutor, Dr. Rowland Utulu, whose unique experience ignited his passion for the field of public health, and for the opportunity to improve the wellbeing of whole communities.
Rowland's story: a life changing experience in a rural community
“I chose to pursue a career in public health following a rural health posting in my fifth year in medical school. We were sent to a really rural community to live for three weeks, and during the three weeks we were there, our objective involved conducting a community diagnosis, which is basically an analysis of all the prevailing health issues in that community.”
The community diagnosis involved sampling 500 children under five, a task which produced astounding results: a remarkably low incidence of enteric parasites and helminths present in the stool samples of the children. For such a rural community, these results were completely unexpected, leading Rowland to question the reliability of the laboratory testing techniques.
The power of education
The medical students soon learned from senior public health residents that the cause of these results was not faulty lab techniques, but instead the position of the rural community as a site for regular community diagnosis, teaching medical students, and implementing a range of health interventions.
Through continued health education, widespread dissemination of anti-helminths and vaccinations, the community had experienced significant improvements in their health indices.
“That filled me with a passion for public health. I realised at that moment that to change the health of a lot of people at once, public health is the most effective tool. In clinical medicine, dealing with one patient at a time, each patient has different problems - but in public health, I could design a study, analyse a problem that a community is facing, and use one intervention to provide a solution to many people at the same time.”
Witnessing the effectiveness of innovative public health interventions firsthand inspired Rowland to consider remarkable historical achievements resulting from public health initiatives, such as the impact of Vitamin A in regulating measles outbreaks, Vitamin C’s role in eradicating scurvy, or fluoridation of water in preventing dental cavities.
Dr. Rowland Utulu practices in the tropics and in lower and middle-income areas of Nigeria, where infectious diseases continue to pose the biggest risks to communities, causing many deaths every year. Much of Dr. Utulu’s work as a Public Health Specialist centres around promoting good hygiene, environmental health, cleanliness and disease prevention, which produces marked improvements in the health of populations he works with.
How can I start a career in Public Health?
There are multiple pathways to building a successful career in public health. In Rowland Utulu’s case, opting for a residency training program in public health in Nigeria allowed him to develop specialised knowledge and expertise through practical experience, which he has used to benefit numerous communities since.
A shorter, and perhaps more impactful, route into public health is to study a master’s in public health, which provides graduates with a strong foundation of knowledge and confidence to contribute to this important field.
Public Health distance learning with Learna | Diploma MSc
At Learna | Diploma MSc, we offer a one year diploma in public health online and a two year master's in public health to thoroughly equip you with the skills and knowledge required to address health issues and make a profound impact on communities. If you decide to study with us, you will be guided by a team of dedicated experts, including Dr. Rowland Utulu, who have serious passion for this subject, as well as a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with you.
Join thought-provoking discussions with your tutors and peers in our academic forum, based on clinically-rich scenarios to prepare you for the reality of addressing public health issues. Our courses are completely flexible, designed to fit around your schedule - so you can work full-time and study at a time that suits you, from anywhere in the world.
Feeling inspired by Rowland Utulu’s story? Visit our course pages to learn from Dr. Utulu and take the next steps in your own Public Health career journey today.