Medical Doctor & Health Researcher, Mittaphab Hospital, Ministry of Health, Vientiane, Laos
Master of Public Health with Honours (First Class)
Health research is important because it can improve the lives of large-scale populations, says Phoutthanaphone Nedthongsavanh who came to AUT as an international student from Laos to study a Master of Public Health. His studies were supported by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade New Zealand – Manaaki New Zealand Scholarship.
“There are a number of factors that limit access to healthcare services in Laos, and both communicable and non-communicable diseases are major causes of mortality and morbidity. I think that evidence-based research can help us inform and improve public health practice and policy and minimise such problems.
“After some years of working as a healthcare professional at a public hospital in Laos, I had a clear goal to advance my knowledge and strengthen my research skills. I chose AUT’s Master of Public Health as I strongly believe that this degree will enable me to become a well-educated asset for my country and play a part in helping Laos graduate from its ‘least developed country’ status.
Having now returned to Laos, Phoutthanaphone works as a medical doctor and health researcher in the medical administration department of Mittaphab Hospital, which is run by Laos’ Ministry of Health.
“My main responsibility is providing healthcare support to patients – mainly foreign patients who can’t communicate in the Lao language – with medical emergencies or chronic diseases. I also co-ordinate various projects that are collaborations with our international partners like the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Korea Foundation for International Healthcare and the United Nations Office for Project Services. I ensure that these projects run smoothly and effectively, and I’m also involved in conducting healthcare research and providing COVID-19 related data to the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19.”
Supported to thrive
He still has fond memories of his time at AUT.
“I really enjoyed studying in the modern buildings and classrooms, and I loved meeting classmates from around the world who shared the same goal to improve people’s health and wellbeing. AUT offers you a nice study space, whether it’s a cosy library or private study spaces in the postgraduate room. Because I mostly studied at the AUT South Campus, I also enjoyed AUT’s modern eco-friendly shuttle bus that makes it easy to travel between the City and the South Campus.
“Throughout my studies, I received great support from my supervisor, Dr Ailsa Holloway, who understood and encouraged me to complete my research during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The scholarship team also offered continuous encouragement and they were always willing to assist if I needed any help.”
This support was especially priceless when Phoutthanaphone was completing his master’s degree research, including having to quickly change his research topic due to not being able to do field research in Laos because of the pandemic.
“With the support from a number of people at AUT, I was able to find a new research topic and studied the role of risk communication in public health emergencies; a key element of effective epidemic and pandemic responses. I explored how Laotian New Zealanders accessed healthcare and health information during New Zealand’s first COVID-19 lockdown. During disease outbreaks, migrant communities are often more vulnerable due to health disparities. I hope that my research will provide beneficial information and evidence to enhance health service delivery for Laotians as well as other Asian migrants.”
Advice for other students
Phoutthanaphone, who graduated from AUT at the end of 2021, wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Master of Public Health to other students.
“I’d recommend AUT’s Master of Public Health as you will gain a lot of valuable lessons related to both academic and life experience. There are interesting courses on public health, health sciences, global health and disaster risk management, as well as many research and method courses that enhance your research knowledge. The courses are mostly taught as a block course, which means you have plenty of time to review the lesson on your own with direct support from your lecturers.”
He also has some great advice for other international students considering study at AUT.
“As AUT is located in the heart of Auckland City – which has been listed as one of most liveable cities in the world – you’ll experience a great study environment and can enjoy beautiful landscapes, friendly people, multicultural events and wonderful cuisines throughout the year. Everything that you would expect from a world-class university and good quality of life while studying, you find it here at AUT.”