Reflexion halfway through the year

Reflect. Reflechir. Reflexionar. Should I go on? Reflecting on what you are busy with in life is critical. I once read, at another blog, that often we seek to just do a vast number of things and we believe that the more things we do, the more productive we are. Doing fewer things is not time wasted.

This evening, this shabbat, this Friday, has given me this opportunity. As a graduate student in the Masters of Public Health program here, I am working steadily on the literature review of my mini dissertation. Doing research that I am impassioned by is such a privilege. To quote from Mary Poppins "I do what I likes and I likes what I do"

One of the things I have come to realize is my understanding of concepts, such as the probability of acquiring HIV from unprotected anal sex – whether as a top or bottom – is an average based on statistical estimation and there is a great deal of uncertainty around it.
Well let me rather not elaborate here much, otherwise I will end up regurgitating the literature.

One thing I am feeling though is that I am at peace and in fact quite thrilled at the prospect of this. This being research. Living up the expectations of the academy – that abstract institution that the professors here negotiate may be hard, but I think it sure beats doing things just for the sake of earning a living.

A question I have grappled with regarding my path has been my direction in public health. Well, at least I can narrow it down to this field of public health, an area that values the population when approaching questions pertaining to disparities in disease in our world and facing challenges that the media enjoy reporting on – ebola, Middle Easter Respiratory Syndrome. Enjoy is a rather macabre word here, so let me rephrase and say issues that captivate the media and, by extension, the public.

I have come so far in infectious disease understanding and now with my mini dissertation on modelling the impact antiretorvirals for HIV-prevention would have on the occurrence of new infections of this virus among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men is captivating.

I admit – I do want to do a bit of everything it seems. I am still fascinated by qualitative approaches and I by chance flipped over the section on "complementary approaches to epidemiology"and found qualitative research analysis. Will I do this course second semester, my last semester. No, at this point, I doubt I can just move into socio-behavioral sciences. I sure can learn the methodology, but to sharpen it to the extent I have with my epidemiology and bio-statistics training, that may take a lot more than I could muster at this stage of thesis writing. I wonder if non-communicable diseases – which is an introduction to social epidemiology I hear – would be a better course? Now there is one course I will take to best do my mini dissertation and that will be infectious disease modelling. I thought I may as well then do the complementary course on structural equations modelling and then have these two courses together count towards my MPH. I took the step towards infectious disease by taking it as course, then by choosing a mini dissertation in that area and my to finish it off I will understand the modelling. The truth I know, is that I am not a model builder by heart. This is perhaps why the non-communicable disease course could work. Come to think of it, building statistical models is also a type of modelling and yet I can do that and I believe I enjoy it. To resolve this issue, I think I will just have to see what July brings. I will finalize it then. I see there is no perfect solution, just one that will work for now. And that is all I need. Similiary, when I went away on the DAAD conference last week, I took part in a CV and interview workshop, because that is what I need now, to learn how to master the craft of CV writing for the corporate world in this part of the world. Who knows, I may need to enter that, even if it is just till I can start my PhD.

Interdisciplinary work may then be the place I thrive best.

Further thoughts: I figured out how to space things – once I finish this mini dissertation, I will apply for my PhD. The DAAD may be one way to go and do my PhD in Germany. Spacing it, just like I will only make my green sauce (for fish tomorrow), but the fish is already grilled waiting (snoek by the way).

And with that introspective reflection, I say goodnight.


About writinghealth

Wannabe Epidemiologist? Wannabe med anthro person? I guess. Christian, scientist (not Christian scientist), i mean like I studied molecular biology and I part of the RC Church. I also completed a Masters of Public Health, at the University of Cape Town, in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
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