Defying deeply rooted traditions & studying all the way to DrPH: Ahsana's journey

Overcoming societal barriers, Ahsana, a Pakistani doctor, pursued higher education with unwavering determination. Now at LSHTM, she researches climate change and healthcare resilience. Through this blog, she shares her experiences, insights, and aspirations for a future where health thrives for all.
Ahsana Nazish

DrPH applications close on 31 January - apply now

Tell us more about your academic journey before you joined LSHTM?

Prior to enrolling in the Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) programme at LSHTM, I embarked on a multifaceted educational journey. As a medical doctor, I first earned my degree, marking a significant milestone in my path. Building upon this foundation, I pursued two master's degrees in Pakistan. The first was in Health Policy and Management (MSc HPM), where I delved into the intricate workings of healthcare systems and their impact on public health. The second was in Administrative Sciences, with a specialisation in Hospital Management (MAS), which equipped me with vital skills in hospital administration, including the optimisation of healthcare operations and the delivery of quality patient care. These academic pursuits laid a robust groundwork for my continued educational voyage and fueled my excitement for public health and healthcare management. Now, as a DrPH candidate at LSHTM, I look forward to further expanding my expertise in the field and making meaningful contributions to global health.

A graoup of graduates in green graduation gowns
Ahsana Nazish (third from left, front row) with fellow graduates in one of her graduation ceremonies.

What barriers would you say you have you faced during your education? 

Born into a family adhering to traditional customs in Pakistan, I faced substantial obstacles as a woman seeking higher education and a career. In a society where such pursuits were often discouraged for women, I was determined to challenge these norms. Supported wholeheartedly by my parents, I became the first woman in my family to achieve a medical degree, defying deeply rooted traditions. However, the journey didn't end there. Pursuing international education also presented challenges. Balancing my familial responsibilities with academic pursuits required careful planning and support. Yet, my unwavering commitment to gaining higher education and contributing to global health ultimately prevailed.

What advice would you give to help someone overcome similar challenges?

To overcome challenges akin to those I faced in pursuing my education and career, I'd advise unwavering self-belief as your starting point. Seek a supportive network, formulate a strategic plan, educate and advocate for your goals, and persistently adapt to navigate hurdles. Connect with those who have triumphed over similar obstacles, stay informed about available resources, and celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small. Your determination and resilience can empower you to break free from societal constraints and inspire positive change for yourself and others.

Ahsana Nazish (sitting) with her children
Ahsana (sitting) with her children.

Explain your research topic in one sentence.

My research explores the intersection of climate change and health, with a focus on enhancing the resilience and sustainability of healthcare facilities.

How did you apply for your research degree? 

I submitted my own proposal when applying for my research degree.

How did you make your application stand out from other applicants?

In my application, I sought to distinguish myself by highlighting my extensive experience in positively impacting the lives of people in my home country. I also emphasized the value of gaining expertise from one of the prestigious universities to enhance my ability to serve more effectively in the field of public health. I believe that combining practical experience with world-class education can be a powerful catalyst for driving meaningful change.

How have the barriers you’ve faced shaped your academic and personal development?

The barriers I've encountered have played a pivotal role in shaping both my academic and personal development. They have instilled in me a profound sense of resilience and determination. Overcoming societal norms and familial expectations to pursue higher education and a career in public health has strengthened my resolve to break down barriers for myself and others. These experiences have fostered adaptability and resourcefulness, skills that are invaluable in both academia and life. They have also ignited a deep passion for making a positive impact in my community and the broader world, particularly in low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan, where access to quality healthcare is often limited. Ultimately, these barriers have not deterred me but have empowered me to strive for excellence in my academic pursuits and in my mission to effect positive change in global health.

Three people looking at a speaker who is sitting
Ahsana (left) in a training session for hospital managers in rural Sindh during COVID-19 times.

How are you finding your research so far?  

Currently, I'm in the process of acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to conduct impactful research for my thesis. It's been an exciting and educational journey as I prepare to delve into my research work, and I'm looking forward to applying what I've learned to make a meaningful contribution to my field.

What are your plans for after your research degree?

After completing my research degree, my goal is to utilise the knowledge and expertise I've gained to contribute to the field of public health. I aim to work on projects that have a direct and positive impact on healthcare systems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Whether it's through policy development, programme implementation, or research, I aspire to play a role in improving healthcare accessibility and quality. Ultimately, I want to continue working towards my vision of a healthier and more equitable world.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for your course at LSHTM?

My advice to anyone considering applying for the DrPH programme especially from Pakistan is to first thoroughly research the programme and its curriculum to ensure it aligns with your career goals and interests in public health. Additionally, take the time to reflect on your own experiences and how they have shaped your passion for this field, as this personal connection can greatly enhance your application. Don't underestimate the importance of highlighting your commitment to making a positive impact on public health, especially in underserved communities or regions. Lastly, reach out to current or former students and faculty members to gain insights into the programme and gather valuable tips for the application process. Remember, your dedication and genuine desire to contribute to global health can truly set you apart as a candidate.