HIV Analyst, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) / Lecturer, Pharmacy Faculty, University of Puthisastra, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Master of Public Health with First Class Honours
Health is everything, says health sciences alumnus Vansak Soeum who came to AUT as an international student from Cambodia to study a Master of Public Health, supported by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade NZ Scholarship.
“I believe that if we’re both mentally and physically healthy, we will live happy lives and be more productive. I aspire to be a health mentor who can promote wellbeing for all and empower the new generation. I hope to spread health awareness to people, especially those who are underprivileged, so they can live longer and healthier lives.”
Now splitting his time between his role as an HIV analyst for the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and as a part-time lecturer for the University of Puthisastra, Vansak has certainly achieved this goal.
“As an HIV analyst, I’m supporting our government to maintain a strong end-to-end supply chain for antiretroviral and HIV diagnostics commodities. This involves providing technical support to the government to eradicate new HIV infections and manage existing HIV cases. In my role as a lecturer, I’m teaching the integrated course for year five pharmacy students. The course teaches students to apply their knowledge to address hepatitis, hypertension and diabetes.
“I enjoy being able to apply my skills to promote people’s health and empower my students, and am proud of being able to guide my students and of working for a global health organisation that provides many opportunities to grow in my public health career.”
Learning to make a difference
He fondly remembers his time at university, says Vansak who graduated from AUT in March 2021.
“I enjoyed learning about the health system, global health issues, health promotion, nutrition, building resilience and more. Studying public health inspired me to be more generous and more active, and developing a growth mindset. The public health degree taught me not just about the health system but also to look for the root causes of health issues, including poverty, climate change, inequality, cultural issues, unsustainable development, education or politics.”
For his master’s degree research, he examined the distance to healthcare services as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes in Cambodia.
"In Cambodia, diabetes is a health condition of increasing concern, with the growing number of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus cases and a projected further rise in the future. I have relatives and beloved friends who are suffering from diabetes, and I clearly understand the hardship they’ve been through. Therefore, my goal was to alert people about the urgent changes needed to address the disease.”
Vansak’s research was supervised by Dr Ailsa Holloway and Dr Melanie Moylan.
The right university environment
Vansak says he would highly recommend studying at AUT.
“By studying at AUT, you’ll become a great graduate and ready to be a good leader in your area of expertise. You’ll have many opportunities to enjoy New Zealand and its culture, and will graduate with a qualification from one of the best modern universities in the world.”
He appreciated the modern university environment AUT offers.
“At AUT, students will experience learning from supportive experts, and having access to innovative learning materials and multicultural environments. As an AUT student you also have access to gyms, trips, school award competitions and more.”