Medical Activity Manager, Médecins Sans Frontières, Myanmar
Master of Disaster Risk Management and Development with Honours (First Class)
For many Myanmar migrants floods and storms are common hazards that often lead to disasters, says Su Myat Kyaw who came to AUT as an international student from Myanmar to study disaster risk management and development. Her master’s degree research was supervised by Dr Ailsa Holloway.
“Most Myanmar migrants have faced floods and storm-related disasters in their homeland, the refugee camps in Thailand, and also in their new home, New Zealand. To reduce the risk storms and floods pose to the Myanmar migrant community and New Zealand, risk communication is vital, particularly in the readiness stage. I’m hoping that my research will provide valuable insights into raising awareness and adoption of protective action in the tiny Myanmar migrant community, and this will lead towards a resilient nation, with a strong feeling of togetherness.”
Su, who has a background in medicine, returned to Myanmar after finishing her studies in 2021 and now works as a medical activity manager for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
“I’m responsible for managing the mobile clinic activities and supervising the junior medical doctors. I love being able to help people in need, especially the ethnic minority groups of people in the IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps, by providing basic medical services and emergency referral services.
“A couple of months ago, there were increasing cases of acute watery diarrhoea in the IDP camps where we run our mobile clinic activities. I made an early warning report to respective colleagues and other non-governmental organisations as it could be connected to an earlier diarrhoea outbreak season. Because of this collaboration and early action, we have now seen a remarkable decline of cases of acute watery diarrhoea. That is an achievement I’m very proud of.”
Making a difference
Su came to AUT to further her understanding of how to best support people during emergencies and disaster situations. Her studies were supported by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade NZ Scholarship.
“I have a bachelor’s degree in medicine from my home country, and spent several years working at general hospitals and private clinics as a junior medical doctor and an assistant surgeon, followed by a career as a freelance general practitioner. I decided to study disaster risk management to develop a better understanding of the broader management of disaster and emergency-related events.”
It’s a decision she hasn’t regretted, says Su.
“I would recommend AUT’s disaster risk management and development programme. It’s suitable for those from a medical background, a nursing background, an engineering background and for urban planners. If you’re interested in the disaster risk management field, this programme gives you the chance to meet people with the same passion as you.”
In addition to her studies, she is also proud of completing an AUT Edge Award and a Beyond AUT Award, which help students stand out in the competitive job market.
Supported to thrive
Su says she appreciated the support available to students at AUT, particularly in times of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“I liked that AUT tries to support students not only by offering a great physical environment but also by looking after their mental health. During the COVID-19 lockdown levels 3 and 4 AUT was continuously encouraging students, and asked academic staff to be flexible and remember that it’s a challenging time for students. It was also a relief that research students could get an extension for their dissertation or thesis without having to worry about additional fees.”
Her first semester in New Zealand had some challenges too, she admits.
“As an international student from a developing country, my first semester was challenging. I was depressed and wasn’t sure if I was suited for this international academic atmosphere. However, Dr Ailsa Holloway helped me overcome these obstacles, and made me feel motivated again.”