Public Health Degrees Series – Hear from the Students
From a young age, my interests have aligned with health science and medicine. I found mental disorders to be fascinating owing to their mysterious aetiology and symptomatology and thus I chose to specialize in the fields of Psychology and Neuroscience for my Bachelor’s degree. To gain practical experiences in these fields, I worked as a researcher throughout the length of my undergraduate. I also worked as a research assistant for an additional year upon finishing my degree to determine if research truly was the career I wanted to pursue. However, I realized that I was far too removed from advocating and intervening socially in the service of health for my liking. Throughout my undergraduate, I had engaged in several community programs that evoked a passion for advocacy and social justice.
Searching for graduate programs to continue my studies, Public Health perfectly encapsulated social justice as it related to my health interests. In narrowing down which university to attend, my love for the city of Montreal and the thrill of studying at a highly esteemed university had a considerable sway on my choice. I eagerly applied to McGill University’s Public Health program and was one of the lucky applicants to be accepted.
The first year curriculum consists of four 3-credit courses each semester, in addition to epidemiology and Public Health seminars twice a week. The workload is heavy but definitely manageable (I even managed to work 10 hours/week during the first year). While there is wide variability across courses in terms of hours of lectures and workload, one theme that emerges through studying Public Health at McGill University is a quantitative orientation and a focus on epidemiological methods. This is an asset, as it grants an understanding of the language of Public Health and enables one to choose a practicum from a wide set of potential projects. This epidemiology and software knowledge will also serve to make you a competitive applicant when applying for practicum projects. On the downside, this focus on epidemiology during the first year prevents a strong and sole focus on public health, which can lead to some students experiencing a disconnect between the classes and the program.
In addition, I really have enjoyed the fact that most classes are small (20-40 students) and are filled with students with eclectic backgrounds, from PhDs in Epidemiology to Masters in Urban Planning. This results in highly interactive courses that are filled with insightful discussions. I will confidently say that you can learn as much from your colleagues as you do from professors.
Finally, to succeed in the Masters at McGill you will need determination, time management and comfortableness with relying on your classmates in the program. My advice to you is the following: you got into an amazing graduate program, leave any competitive spirit you may have obtained from your undergraduate experience back at home. Do not be afraid to ask for help, do not shy away from offering it, use your resources to your advantage and you are guaranteed to have an amazing and successful two years in the amazing city that is Montreal.
About the author
Melissa Berman (BSc) is expected to complete the MScPH program at McGill University on April of 2017. Her practicum focused on investigating the perception of immunization experts on pneumococcal vaccines for the infant immunization program, hoping to inform future policy and vaccination guidelines. She is expected to continue her studies in Medicine at McGill University and ultimately hopes to work as a public health family physician serving underserved and marginalized communities across Canada.