Dean (2013-Present) and Professor, BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University
COVID-19 has magnified existing structural and social inequalities amongst the most disadvantaged populations, and clearly revealed the fault-lines that exist in public health. This forces us to acknowledge that we cannot simply look at public health from mainly a biomedical lens. We are developing graduates with the practical and critical skills required, so they can contribute in this rapidly changing world, and be competent public health leaders. During the start of COVID-19 last year, the faculty and research team conducted over 45 rapid surveys and longitudinal qualitative and quantitative research, actively engaging with communities, practitioners and other key stakeholders. If there is one lesson that we can take from this unfolding pandemic, is that “experts” do not necessarily have all the answers. A School of Public Health has a critical role in not only providing quality academic education, but also through its research with communities and implementors, to bridge existing gaps in policies and practice. Translating evidence into action is key.
I joined the School in 2004 when we were just 4 colleagues and I took over as Dean in 2013. The School has grown from 66 colleagues in 2012, to presently 309 colleagues, of which 60% are women. The MPH programme has produced 524 public health graduates and leaders from 34 countries. Some of our graduates have been in the frontline of public health crises such as the Ebola epidemic, headed the Midwifery programme in Afghanistan and joined BRAC, icddr,b and government ministries in Bangladesh and other countries. Many enrolled in PhDs and after their studies, returned to work in their respective countries. Others have joined UN, WHO and other leading organisations around the world. Several of our faculty in the MPH programme are our star graduates from Uganda, Liberia, Australia, and Bangladesh. We were recently cited in a John Hopkins School of Public Health newsletter, as one of the leading Schools in the region, developing world-class expertise in training and capacity development.
We have adjusted and adapted our international MPH academic programme and began online teaching in the third week of March 2020, with a current cohort of 38 students from 14 countries across Europe, Africa, Oceania, South and South-East Asia. We have a pioneering Midwifery diploma programme that was established in 2012, and has 602 graduated midwives as of 2020, with 224 of them presently working in the Rohingya refugee camps.
Our five Centres of Research Excellence: Urban Equity and Health, Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Implementation Science & Scale Up, Health Systems and Universal Health Coverage and Non-Communicable Diseases and Nutrition, and our Humanitarian Research Hub are working with research and academic partners across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America and in South Asia and South-east Asia. We have generated 137 peer reviewed publications in the last two years and organised 62 policy dialogues, meetings and webinars to inform policies and programmes.
On looking back at the past year and the unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 has thrust upon all of us, I am even more deeply grateful to my Associate Dean, Professor Malabika Sarker, my senior management team, and to all my colleagues for their continued commitment and dedication in striving for a unified vision to become a leading global public health institute for the world’s critical health challenges affecting disadvantaged communities.
In conclusion, I would like to take a moment to remember our founder, late Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, whose legacy and dream continues to be profoundly reflected in the vision and mission of the School.
Sabina Faiz Rashid