Marian Orhierhor

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I studied Animal and Environmental biology for my undergraduate degree, which satisfied most of my curiosities, from the Amoeba paramecium to the highly developed Homo sapiens. During my studies, I found a new love, 'Parasitology,' where I discovered a new world of parasites and diseases. It is popularly said that 'Health is Wealth,' this was an important part of my culture. The combined passion for knowledge and helping others then translated to the need to provide health care and broaden my scope, thus my interest in pursuing a graduate degree in Public Health.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC is one of the top global universities, with a reputation for extensive research, creativity, and seeking solutions to practical problems. Degrees acquired from UBC are also recognized as being up to date and practical. It also offers a rich academic and multicultural environment that will strongly aid my personal, professional and social development.

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

I became attracted to the program because I was aware some professors from the Faculty of Medicine at UBC were in the front line of combating the Ebola outbreak of 2014 in West Africa. I was particularly attracted by SPPH academics Dr. Annalee Yassi and Dr. Jerry Spiegel who created the Global Health Research program, which provided adaptive interactive animated educational tools for the Ebola response in the African context. The MPH curriculum further captured my interest as it was in-line with my academic interests. The rigorous course work in epidemiology, biostatistics and research methodologies, coupled with the first-hand experience during the practicum, would ensure I was getting the right knowledge and skills. Studying at SPPH gave me the opportunity to network with scholars from different fields of study, thereby extending my professional network and global reach. It also meant I would have a chance to network with professors who are critical players in public health in Canada and global health.

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

Nigeria has a tropical climate, so transitioning to such a cold environment was definitely a big shock. However, Vancouver and UBC have such beautiful scenery, and online pictures do not do them justice.

Studying at SPPH gave me the opportunity to network with scholars from different fields of study, thereby extending my professional network and global reach. It also meant I would have a chance to network with professors who are critical players in public health in Canada and global health.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

It has definitely been an intriguing experience studying public health in the middle of a pandemic!. One of the major highlights of my graduate experience has been in the classroom environment, where I have learnt from faculty and peers' expertise. It has been interesting to see how socio-cultural factors shape perspectives. As humans, I have realized that we don’t see things as they are, but we see things as we are, and indeed there are no wrong answers, just different perspectives. I have also had the opportunity to engage and learn from stakeholders from health authorities and global health researchers working at the BCCDC and WHO. I recently started my practicum at the Vaccine Evaluation Centre of the BC Children's Hospital Research Institute, so I am excited about all the wonderful experiences that are to come.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Over the years, I developed various quantitative, qualitative, and research skills that prepared me for graduate studies. Before graduate studies, I worked with non-governmental organizations in community health and health promotion, with my primary tasks being stakeholder engagement, project coordination and management. I also worked as an independent monitor for school-based deworming activities targeted at Schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths in Nigeria. Furthermore, I was a journal relations officer at the Nigerian Journal of Parasitology, a journal concerned with the publication of pure and applied research in epidemiology, international health, and public health, which broadened my theoretical knowledge on public health.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I enjoyed hanging out with friends and going on trips to various tourist attraction sites, I also love taking pictures, and the Rose Garden at UBC is one of my favourite spots. In recent times, I spend any free-time taking walks, watching funny videos on YouTube and Instagram and binge-watching K-dramas on Netflix!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Be prepared for opportunities and explore all opportunities that come your way. It is important to network and form life-long friendships. You can do this by attending career fairs, networking events, professional workshops, luncheons, and volunteering with organizations. Your classmates are essential resources; join study groups. This will ease the tension you may feel about some classes and make your graduate journey easier. Create time for extracurricular activities, and refresh yourself because your brain needs time to relax to function at optimum. You may have some not-so-good moments and may feel confused at times, but remember to seek guidance, UBC has lots of resources for students support. All in all, remain creative, committed, confident, and let your passion drive you. Graduate school may be intense, but always remember to be kind to yourself and enjoy every bit of the journey.


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