Studying Public Health online - John's story

John, who is from the Philippines and living in the UK, is in his first year studying the online PGCert in Public Health. The flexibility of online learning enables John to pursue his interest in research and public health while working full-time as a Clinical Research Nurse in London.
John Bervin Galang

Please explain a bit about your academic/professional background

I started studying at LSHTM in 2020 and I am a nurse by profession. I was born and raised in the Philippines where I also studied my BSc in Nursing. I worked there for almost three years as a staff nurse in a general medical and surgical ward. I moved to the UK in 2017. I was first assigned to the North of England as a staff nurse focusing on diabetes management while also working as a University Clinician. I moved to London in 2019 to pursue my interest in research and public health. Currently, I work as a full-time Clinical Research Nurse in a London research facility while studying at LSHTM. 

Why did you choose to study your course with LSHTM?

Firstly, the very reason I have chosen to study Public Health at LSHTM is its flexibility. As a nurse, and working full-time, I thought it would be best for me to find a programme that would suit my schedule and would deliver the quality of education I deserve. Secondly, LSHTM itself is one of the many reasons why I moved to the UK. I know for a fact that the quality of education I would receive in the context of Public Health is world-class. Lastly, I love how inclusive the School is, especially with staff and students. In my first year, I have already met so many awesome people working in different specialist fields all over the world.

Why did you choose the PGCert programme and what have been the advantages of this for you? 

I have chosen to start with the PGCert programme in Public Health as I was unsure how busy I was going to be in my full-time job as a Clinical Research Nurse. Aside from COVID-19 vaccine trials, I am also leading some metabolic and renal studies. My aim is to complete Public Health by Distance Learning as an MSc by 2024. To share with you my timeline, I have registered for 3 core modules for my first year, and another 3 in my second year to finish off all my core modules. And in my 3rd and 4th year, I am planning to take 4 elective modules each year to complete all 14 modules in 4 years. My 5th year is just a back up year just in case I fail some of the modules, but of course, I will try my best not to fail at any. Fingers crossed!

What have been your favourite aspects of the programme?

I started last year and have only registered for 3 core modules. I enjoy them all. I have found Basic Epidemiology and Basic Statistics for Public Health and Policy particularly useful in my current job, as our research facility helps run 3 different COVID-19 vaccine trials. It is very timely and relevant. Also, the Environment, Health & Sustainable Development module is close to my heart. Since the beginning, I decided that I would be taking the Environment & Health Stream in Public Health. I am loving how flexible the modules are, especially as I can only study during weeknights and some weekends. Support from tutors does also play a big part in my learning experience, in addition to the recorded study materials that are available online. It is truly convenient for me.

I love how inclusive the School is, especially with staff and students. In my first year, I have already met so many awesome people working in different specialist fields all over the world. 

How has the programme helped you in your career?

This programme has helped me appreciate my profession as a nurse much more. Doing clinical research and studying public health at the same time complement one another and it gives me a clearer picture of my purpose in life – to give care to people. Ever since I was a kid, I have always dreamed of working with the World Health Organization. One way for me to achieve this is to work my way up slowly and I believe that LSHTM is my starting point. Growing up in a developing country, I wanted to progress my career into public and global health – and even go further into planetary health. I am aware that I still have so much to learn and by choosing LSHTM, I know that I am in good hands.

What skills have you gained from studying this programme?  

The most important thing I've learnt so far is how to think like a public health professional. Before, I would only see my patients through the clinical eyes of a nurse. Now, I also consider how one intervention might affect the whole of public health. I have realised that the provision of health should not only be limited to an individual but also to involve everyone who is around them too.  

Have you been able to connect with other students? How have you done this?  

We utilise all the platforms available (i.e. WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Facebook). We are also doing some video conference calls to catch up with different modules we are doing together, whilst also considering different time zones that we all have. Another useful tool is LSHTM Connect which offers the chance to meet and speak with alumni. From there, we also receive updates about the latest university news.

John Bervin Galang

What are your plans for after you complete your studies?  

I have so many plans after completing my studies but if there is one thing I am sure of, it is to give back to my own country, the Philippines, and at least help improve and strengthen our health system. I also want to explore a variety of opportunities around the world and maximise my potential as a nurse, researcher, and public health officer.  

Please sum up your experience of studying by distance learning with LSHTM

My experience at LSHTM has been worthwhile because whilst studying an intense programme, I can still do the things that I love doing. Studying here has not been a hindrance to me in accomplishing some other personal stuff that I wanted to do in life. Rather, it has been a gateway for me to fuel up my passion and meet extraordinary people around the world. Ever since I have started here, I have always been inspired, surrounded by dedicated and talented people. Just being a part of the LSHTM community is already a good reason to register here, and stay until you finish the programme. And essentially, it would not stop there as your network extends all over the world. 

Tell us a bit about you – what do you do when you are not working or studying?  

This lockdown has never stopped me from being creative and doing what I love doing. I have decided to learn music theory again and play the digital piano. I have also thought about becoming healthy from the inside and the outside – eating healthily and being physically active. I am working to improve my cooking skills in preparing healthy Greek, Italian and Korean dishes. I have also started doing some bodyweight exercises at home and running outdoors. Other than that, I just do what normal students do and I am just like you. I am also fond of daydreaming, more often than not. Hopefully, after all these lockdowns, we can all go back to normality and I would really love to travel again.