Voice from Students

Health education enhanced by taking the broad view

Postgraduate study in public health at the University of Tsukuba is enriched by a diverse range of expertise in healthcare

For Perpétue Vincent, the most rewarding feature of the University of Tsukuba’s Masters of Public Health is the “mosaic of specialties” among its students and teaching and research staff.

“It is very interesting and instructive to have discussions with people of diverse backgrounds – nurses, MDs, economists, ecologists and behavioural scientists,” says Vincent, a Haitian doctor with a passion for public health in developing countries, who is currently completing her second year of the course.

Tsukuba’s prestigious and wide-ranging Medical Sciences Department boasts more than 80 faculty members covering a diverse range of specialties; from children’s health to areas such as the effects of climate change on health, global ageing, health equity and child welfare.

The English-language Master of Public Health course is one of several specialty options available to students at Tsukuba enrolled in the Master of Medical Science program. Each year the program, which began in 2009, takes in about 15 overseas students, with the costs of their degree paid for by the Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Students can choose one of two options within the course, based on their academic background, professional experience and future plans. The standard approach takes two years, with the second year devoted mainly to a research project and thesis on an aspect of public health. This is recommended for those thinking of pursuing a PhD in their research project area. It’s the path being taken by Vincent, whose thesis is on the awareness among Haitian mothers of hypertension during pregnancy.

There is also an accelerated option, which can be completed in one year. Instead of a research thesis, students pursue a special cross-disciplinary written and oral project, the Advanced Exercise on Public Health, which allows them to synthesize theoretical and practical coursework.

The academic coursework in each version is the same, with lessons including human anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and overviews of clinical and social medicine and public health management and policy. There are also elective and advanced credit options in biotechnology, pathology, sports and health, medical welfare, medical information technology and experimental animal sciences.

Vincent enjoys both the interesting coursework and the Tsukuba environment, including its mix of people with a variety of interests from around the world, which creates a particularly stimulating social setting. “They say if you throw a stone here, you will hit a PhD,” Vincent says.

But most of all, Tsukuba offers her the opportunity to become a better doctor. “Improving the population’s health is a noble task that requires the contribution of many professionals,” she says. “If I want my career to contribute to that great task then a good understanding of public health is a must.”