Ihoghosa Iyamu

Digital health equity in online sexually transmitted and blood borne infection testing in British Columbia
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I had worked as a public health physician for years in a large-scale HIV program in Nigeria, first in clinical services and then in operations research. I found the process of generating quality evidence to steer our programs and initiatives to be quite intriguing and rewarding. However, as I progressed in my career, I found that I lacked the critical skills required to inform the type of operations research I found in the best journals and reports from different organizations involved in similar work around the world. Therefore, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in population and public health to acquire much-needed research skills.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

Two main factors influenced my decision to study at UBC. The first was the team I wanted to work with. I had read a lot about the work on digital health at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control’s (BCCDC) Clinical Prevention Services unit which runs GetCheckedOnline.com (GCO). At the time, I was deeply involved in implementing digital health interventions in my own program in Nigeria and frequently found that whenever I needed more information about problems I grappled with, I would refer to the work on GCO in various journals for potential solutions and evidence of impact. It, therefore, made sense to apply to UBC where the leads hold faculty positions when it was time for a graduate degree. The second reason was to be closer to family. My wife was already in Vancouver for a graduate program. I wanted to be closer to her, and UBC, in my opinion, is the best school in the city.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

As described already, I was drawn by a specific team and their work on digital health. Beyond that, UBC’s School of Population and Public health has a reputation for high-quality research. I believed that learning within this environment would further enable my ambitions to contribute high-quality research similar to those I was frequently intrigued by from various journals online.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I would say I expected the weather to be mild, but I had not realized how much people loved to talk about the weather. It is often a conversation starter and I have experienced hour-long conversations specifically about the weather. This has been both a strange and funny experience for me. I was also surprised by the people’s interest in physical activity and being outdoors. Obviously, Vancouver’s amazing landscape and surrounding mountains make this more fun and I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed new activities like hiking.

UBC’s School of Population and Public health has a reputation for high-quality research. I believed that learning within this environment would further enable my ambitions to contribute high-quality research.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I worked as a public health physician in a large-scale HIV program in roles involving operations research and knowledge management. In these roles, I was required to continually engage with academics from various universities. I find that my experience with the practical aspects of public health have helped me prepare for the applied nature of the research I will be embarking on at the School of Population and Public Health.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I love to cook and have downtime with family and friends. Vancouver's diverse scene has expanded my palate and recipe book. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has limited the extent to which I may enjoy these activities, but hopefully, we may get back to a somewhat normal life soon.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

I would say get engaged in the community and explore the plethora of opportunities to learn and contribute as soon as you can. UBC’s School of Population and Public Health engages in very applied scholarship, so these opportunities are not restricted to the school alone. There are UBC faculty working with most of the health authorities and tertiary hospitals in BC and these organizations host different events that are usually open. Find the events that stimulate your curiosity, engage with the teams and run with them. You never know, you may meet your next supervisor or stumble on your next project through such engagements.


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