Lecturer in Adult Health, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi
Master of Public Health
Postgraduate study has made him more confident in his career as a health professional, says McDonald William Nyalapa who came to AUT as an international student from Malawi to study a Master of Public Health.
“As a health professional, I was looking for a broader health-related postgraduate programme to gain insights into global health, epidemiology, and health policy and systems. These areas are relevant to developing countries like Malawi.
“I would strongly recommend the Master of Public Health to others. Even if you don’t have a health-related background, this programme enables you to understand other factors related to health and wellbeing, including social inequities, economics and the environment. If you’re a health professional, it enables you to think outside the box and not just consider health-related factors. I feel more confident in my career now.”
Modern diets and diabetes
For his master’s thesis, McDonald explored the risk of diabetes in Malawi, under the supervision of AUT academics Dr Cath Conn and Kate Kersey.
“My study was the first to investigate whether dietary changes are driving the diabetes epidemic in Malawi. The study revealed that Malawian diets have not undergone total modification. However, there is evidence of consumption of highly refined processed foods and snacks, which contribute significantly to the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“This study will act as a basis for further studies on the risk of diabetes, and for nutritional guidelines and policy in Malawi.”
He enjoyed being able to share his work with other researchers, McDonald says.
“I was privileged to be the winner of the master’s category in the 2017 AUT Three Minute Thesis Competition, and got to represent AUT at the Three Minute Thesis Masters Inter-University Challenge at Victoria University of Wellington. This was a great opportunity to network and expose my work to a larger audience.”
Diverse and supportive
AUT’s diverse environment was one of the highlights of his studies, says McDonald whose studies were supported by an NZAID scholarship.
“I loved the multi-ethnic experiences at AUT. For instance, there were over 10 nationalities in my class, and this was a great environment for students to share their knowledge and skills.”
The support services available to students were another highpoint for McDonald.
“The learning advisors supported me greatly, both in my assignments and my research. This made my study life considerably less stressful.”
Returning to Malawi
After completing his Master of Public Health, McDonald is now working as a lecturer in adult health at the University of Malawi.
“This is a university that merges the School of Medicine and School of Nursing. I got this job because of my research major in noncommunicable diseases. I believe that AUT equipped me well to handle any health-related job in Malawi and beyond.
“I’ve recently also been given the opportunity to participate in a year-long PhD exchange programme between my local university and Cardiff University in the UK. A lot of candidates competed for this opportunity, but I was chosen in the end. I did the first year of my PhD in Cardiff, and am now continuing my studies through the University of Malawi. I’m also proud of recently being recognised as a New Zealand ambassador by the New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa.”
Despite tight schedules at his workplace, McDonald has managed to sustain his research life.
“This has been possible because of the ongoing collaboration with AUT staff, particularly Dr Cath Conn. I cherish the fruitful collaboration I have with Dr Cath Conn. Recently, we submitted a paper for the International Visual Methods Conference (IVMC) held in Cape Town later this year. The paper has been accepted for presentation, and we’re both excited to present at the conference.”