Ei Mon Thinn Kyu

Ei Mon Thinn Kyu

Public Health Consultant, Myanmar
Master of Public Health

She is dedicated to improving the wellbeing of communities, says Ei Mon Thinn Kyu who came to AUT as an international student from Myanmar to study a Master of Public Health, supported by a Manaaki New Zealand Scholarship.

“I had been working in non-governmental organisations in Myanmar for nearly six years, and had witnessed the health inequities faced by diverse ethnicities within Myanmar and how public health programmes aim to narrow these disparities. The different outcomes of these programmes motivated me to pursue advanced studies in public health, driven by a desire to contribute further towards closing these gaps.”

To achieve this goal, she headed to AUT in Auckland in 2018 to study public health and she still has strong memories of her time studying in New Zealand.

“I always loved the insightful discussions with my supervisor, Dr Ailsa Holloway, who played a pivotal role in mentoring me to expand my perspective beyond the boundaries of public health. Over months-long weekly meetings, Ailsa guided and supervised me for my dissertation and encouraged me to maintain a critical lens in examining public health issues. Thanks to her and my secondary supervisor, Dr Melanie Moylan, I came to appreciate the multifaceted nature of public health.

“I’m also proud of navigating through various academic and personal challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and political turmoil in my home country while conducting my research dissertation. With the unwavering support of my supervisors and scholarship officers, I managed to successfully submit my dissertation. This experience illuminated the tremendous impact a robust support network of family, friends, supervisors, and university can have on the academic journey of an international student.”

Fighting malaria in Myanmar
Now back in South-East Asia, Ei Mon is working as a public health consultant for an international non-governmental organisation, partnering closely with community-based organisations from Myanmar.

“The primary focus of our work is malaria control in eastern Myanmar, especially in regions beyond state control. As part of my responsibilities, I serve as a coordinator between donor organisations, funding agencies, ethnic health organisations and community-based organisations, facilitating the successful and safe implementation of malaria control activities.

“Since 2020, malaria has surged more than eleven times in this region due to ongoing political turmoil. Five years ago, during my tenure in the lower regions of Myanmar, the nation was diligently working towards the malaria elimination goal by 2030. Now, the elimination is nowhere near that goal. The political determinants of malaria displaced thousands of populations, leading to a significant increase in malaria infections and even fatalities. The approach we now need to take is completely different, often intertwined with humanitarian actions.”

She has been deeply impressed by the local health professionals she is working with.

“The community-based organisations and ethnic health workers in the region have worked relentlessly for their people over the decades. The sacrifices and dedication they invested into their ethnic people go far beyond mere public health interventions. Every day, I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with these remarkable individuals.”

Advice for other students
It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit bewildered at the beginning of your academic journey, says Ei Mon, who graduated from AUT in 2021 and is proud of being awarded the Top Postgraduate Academic Achievement Award 2019 and of completing the AUT Edge Award.

“Rest assured that AUT provides a variety of support services for both domestic and international students. I highly recommend attending AUT Orientation as it offers valuable insights into the university's support systems.

“If you ever find yourself in need of assistance or facing challenges along the way, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Your lecturers, postgraduate programme coordinator or the team at the AUT Student Hub are always there to lend a helping hand.”

She also has some useful tips specifically for students in the postgraduate public health programmes.

“It’s important to note that assignments are evaluated-based on the learning outcomes and instructions provided, so be sure to carefully follow the instructions and meet the specified outcomes. Alumni like myself are also more than willing to offer support, collaborate and contribute to your journey. We highly appreciate the power of collective knowledge.”