Marlon Ragunanan had the best year of his life at the Hebrew University
I am Marlon Ragunanan from St. Lucia who has been a recipient of a scholarship from the British Friends of the Hebrew University to undertake an International Master of Public Health at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – Hadassah, Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Jerusalem Israel for the academic year 2011-2012. Below is a brief biography of my academic and professional career along with my experiences studying in Israel and what I am currently engaged in and intend to accomplish as a new Master of Public Health Scholar.
After I completed college in 2001, I worked as a primary school teacher for two years. In July 2004, I left the teaching service and moved to the Ministry of Health where I worked as an Apprentice Environmental Health Officer. Whilst working, in 2005 I started a Certificate in Environmental Health Program at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and graduated in 2007 with Honors. In 2008, I commenced a Bachelors of Science Degree in Public Health at Monroe College St. Lucia Campus and graduated Summa Cum-Laude in 2010. After completion of my degree in Public Health I was promoted to Acting Environmental Health Officer II, where I was the Supervisor of a region in the west of the country. I was later confirmed in the position of Environmental Health Officer II and was given the responsibility of being Officer in-charge and managed the Vector Management Unit within the Department of Environmental Health. During my seven years working with the Department of Environmental Health I have undertaken a number of courses and acquired considerable knowledge and experience in areas of Food Safety, Water Quality, Vector Management and Port Health.
I have always wanted to pursue a master’s degree outside of the Caribbean in order to acquire new experiences and get different perspectives of various health and health systems. Through the Government of St. Lucia and the Ambassador of Israel to the Caribbean Region, I was informed of the prestige and high quality of education provided in Israel of which I wanted to be affiliated with. I then applied to the International Master of Public Health program in Israel and was successfully accepted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – Hadassah, Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
The year spent in Israel has been the best year of my life not only for the educational enrichment but from the exposure of meeting and building linkages with persons from 15 different countries along with the wonderful country and people of Israel. The vast amount of knowledge and experience from the lecturers allowed me to acquire up to date knowledge that could be used in many ways to develop and strengthen the health systems in my country. Their availability and willingness to always assist cannot be over exemplified. I must give credit to the entire faculty for always ensuring that our personal and academic wellbeing was given priority as they tried to provide the most conducive learning and living environments. What made this program stand out from similar others was the exposure of learning and interacting with persons from so many different countries. The value of such experience is one note mentioning as it has provided me with the skills and tools to see things from many different perspectives which has now enabled me to operate on an international level as I have understood what is taking place from the most to the less developed environments. The network built throughout the many countries is a valuable asset to each one of the students as we can monitor disease trends and communicate on such geographical international basis.
Although the work schedule was intense throughout the school year the provision of social events and trips to the wonderful sites in Israel by the school made a vast difference in my ability to cope. Having such events, were important to the learning process as it allowed me to take a break from the condensed academic activities to learn about the culture and people of Israel. Experiencing the coldest parts of the country to the desert to the lowest point on the earth, all so rich with biblical history was another opportunity I never fathom I would ever experience.
Now that I have completed my Master of Public Health, I plan on making a more significant input in the health operations and policy development in St. Lucia. I want to use a more science-based approach towards reducing the burden of illness in the country through research, prevention and education. I have formally reported back to work at the Ministry of Health of the Government of St. Lucia where I await assigned tasks to put my newly acquired education and skills to action. Also, on a part time basis I am lecturing at the Monroe College St. Lucia Campus, School of Allied Health Professionals (Public Health) Division. Being able to impart the knowledge gained through lecturing is enriching as it keeps me refreshed and up to date in the Public Health field.
I cannot express my deepest and sincere thanks to the providers of the scholarship - 'The Harry and Leah Cohen, British Friends of the Hebrew University, Scholarship in Public Health’ - and faculty and staff of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – Hadassah, Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine for making this dream a reality. It is through such generosity that there is hope of making this world a better place. The opportunity I have been afforded have made a significant difference in my life which I intend on continuing by reaching out and helping others in need with the tools and education I received in Israel.