In a previous blog, I interviewed Linda Timm (class of 2016) about life after the Global Health Master’s program. Here, the same questions are posed to one of her classmates, Dennis Chen, for another perspective.
Q. What did you do before coming to KI?
A. I worked as a pharmacist in a medical center in Taipei, Taiwan for 6 months in late 2013 to 2014 and then at clinics and a local pharmacy for 1.5 years.
Q. Why did you decide to pursue a Master’s in Global Health?
A. It was the idea of studying abroad that came first. I had been to the US for a lab exchange in 2010 and really wanted to re-live those times again. How I decided to study a public health discipline is more complicated. During my undergraduate years as a pharmacy student we touched upon health insurance systems. It introduced me to the variety of public health topics, mostly health policy and economics. After my undergraduate studies, I briefly enrolled in a lab-based Masters program focusing on pharmacology. Those days in the lab were quite a struggle for me and also made me realize that my interest actually spans across both social science and life science. The public health field happened to encompass both fields and doesn’t require any lab work. Weighing the time to finish the program and the overall expenses, plus a little bit of my fantasy about Nordic countries, I chose a one year program. i.e. the Master’s in Global Health at KI.
Q. Did the course meet your expectations?
A. Yes and No. My favorite part of the program is quantitative methodology. The lecturers were able to describe the concepts in very understandable narratives. They were able to explain a statistical concept within 20 minutes, while in Taiwan I was usually feeling confused even after a 3-hour class. Especially the elective course in March, it really helped me a lot to answer my longstanding questions about statistical hypothesis and I learned how to apply it to my dissertation. Some reading materials during the course are very well worth reading as well. However, my frustration about other modules is apparent. As I mentioned, we never ran out of good reading materials, but whether the lecturer actually brought up the materials in the course is another story. The intensive schedule forced lecturers to skip contents and rush the presentation. And most courses stayed at the introductory level, which is a letdown for a Masters program. Besides, we should have had more individual assignments instead of excessive group work. Some content was too general and unnecessary for me. For example, in the health policy module, we spent too much time discussing the ideological theories rather than learning the skills applicable in the public health field. We could have had more emphasis on the management of global health projects but we didn’t. As a tuition-paying student I just placed higher expectations on the course and the discrepancy really hit me hard.
Q. What are you currently doing?
A. I am now a Clinical Research Associate in a CRO company in Taiwan (CRO: Contract Research Organization). I am responsible for several oncology clinical trials. Daily activities include communicating with doctors and nurses, explaining the research protocols, preparing dossiers for Ethics Committee’s review, arranging the logistics of research materials shipments, monitoring the integrity and accuracy of the data, etc. It is also a job I already thought about pursuing before I went to Sweden.
Q. Do you feel that the course helped you secure this job?
A. No. The course is NOT a career move. My Bachelor degree is more related to what I’m doing now. Anyone with a health science degree can be in this position. As the course is more like a MPhil instead of a MSc, it has no benefits for me in the clinical research field. When competing with other candidates, I “probably” stand out a little bit with all the understanding in statistics and study design in epidemiology, but all my fellow CRAs come from a biomedical major and have been doing a good job without any public health knowledge.
Q. What is your advice for students who are about to complete their Global Health course and are starting to look for jobs?
A. Figure out which role you want to have in public health (if you have already decided to work in the public health field.) Set a plan B for yourself. There are many positions in NGOs, research, advocacy, policy planning, resource management, etc. but the job supply is always limited. Try to expand your network beyond your current location and social circle. Get to know more people with different professions. You never know how diverse people are and how one day they could help you in your career. Like, last month I met a guy majoring international business but works for Marie Stopes as a reproductive rights advocate. See, you never know.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. Keep striving in my current position to be a senior CRA. Other positions in a pharmaceutical company could also be an option. Apply to volunteer at a penguin conservation camp in South Africa (yes, penguin) for a couple of weeks between jobs.
Remember that you are always welcome to contact me if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.