Sheila Alaghemand’s practices public health in Malaysia

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For USF College of Public Health master’s student, Sheila Alaghemand, last summer was a time of opportunity. Instead of lounging poolside, she found herself across the world in Malaysia ready to practice her passion in global health.

Alaghemand, earning her degree in global communicable diseases from the Department of Global Health, spent her international field experience (IFE) in Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

She studied alongside Dr. Safii Razitasham, a professor at the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) to learn about the overall surveillance process for major communicable diseases prevalent in Sarawak.

IFE is a practicum that is open to all COPH students and is mandatory for students in the global health practice concentration.

The IFE takes place in an agency, institution, or community in a developing country, and under the supervision of the preceptor and the guidance of the student’s academic advisor.

Sheila Alghemand in Kuching, Sarawak. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Alghemand)

Sheila Alaghemand in Kuching, Sarawak. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Alaghemand)

As a student she had set goals for herself to learn about different perspectives on public health in the Malaysian culture and to gain hands-on experience with public health in a real world setting, while also gaining a global perspective on different disease control strategies.

Through her IFE, she said she was exposed to experiences she would not have otherwise had in the U.S.

During her time in Kuching, she worked in health vector labs and also had the opportunity to work at each level of the health care system, from the district to divisional to headquarters.

She was also able to examine how diseases are reported through various computerized surveillance programs including e-notifikasi and e-wabak.

“By doing my IFE in Kuching, and interning with different public health officials, I gained a unique working experience that would be difficult to acquire in the U.S.,” she said. “This experience helped me learn the importance of researching the community and understanding cultural practices in different ethnic groups for a successful prevention and treatment plan implementation.”

Alghemand assisting in the malaria research lab. (Photo courtesy of Shelia Alghemand)

Alaghemand assisting in the malaria research lab. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Alaghemand)

Alghemand (third from left) with Dr. Razitasham (fourth from left) and the tuberculosis control team at the Anti-Tuberculosis Association Sarawak Clinic. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Alghemand)

Alaghemand (third from left) with Dr. Razitasham (fourth from left) and the tuberculosis control team at the Anti-Tuberculosis Association Sarawak Clinic. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Alaghemand)

Community outreach with the UNIMAS team. (Photo courtesy of Shelia Alghemand)

Community outreach with the UNIMAS team. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Alaghemand)

“Educating the community is also one of the best investments you can make as a public health practitioner to ensure the success of your program,” she said. “This is seen every day in how Sarawak is able to successfully give people in rural communities access to health care. This trip reinforced my passion for public health and I am excited to practice everything I have learned.”

Alghemand with the vector control team during the Rainforest Music Festival. (Photo courtesy of Shelia Alghemand)

Alaghemand with the vector control team during the Rainforest Music Festival. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Alaghemand)

The COPH’s IFE allows students to integrate theory and practice in an international public health work environment.

The student contributes to a community’s resources and to the solution of a public health problem while developing personal confidence and leadership skills as a public health professional.

For more information about IFE, visit the IFE website or contact IFE Administrator Jesse Casanova at jcasanov@health.usf.edu.

Story by Tabassum Tasnim, USF College of Public Health

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