Born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Alavi Hossain was certain of her calling to save the world — with a white coat as her cape. She would later join her home country’s most prestigious medical school and after years of intense study, complete a fellowship and an internship that opened her eyes to a greater purpose. “During my training period, it became obvious how the system had failed to provide services to women and children,” she explains.
Hossain knew this too well. She lost her first child due to pre-eclampsia preceding HELPP syndrome — an unfortunate reality for many would-be mothers in Bangladesh. It was then the fully-qualified doctor realized that the solution for mothers was not medicine, but public health interventions. “My own life experience made me feel that an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of treatment,” she says.
Upon researching educators who could evolve her into the world-changer she wished to become, Hossain discovered Dr. Rosemary Frasso and other researchers of the Jefferson College of Population Health (JCPH). “When I talked to them, I felt I belong with these wonderful people,” she says.
JCPH’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program sealed the deal. This nationally accredited degree — through the Council on Education for Public Health — was designed to help students develop competencies in the topical public health areas of health behavior and social sciences, biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, policy and advocacy, program planning, implementation and evaluation, and much more. Students have the opportunity to concentrate on specific areas of study.
“I have customized my classes according to my interest,” Hossain says. “For example, I’m focusing on the Dimensions of Global Health this term which has been super helpful in my career path as a physician. I am also going to take on lessons in Infectious Disease Epidemiology which I think would aptly match my interests.”
Hossain hopes to love these new topics as much as she enjoys lessons in Society, Behavior and the Environment. Dr. Amy Leader has always done an excellent job in making each class on the topic “interactive and enjoyable.” Meanwhile, Denine Crittendon was especially skilled in ensuring each Cultural Humility and Competence session was intimate in nature, yet brimming with meaningful discussions.
With their expert guidance, Hossain gained the confidence she needed to broaden her horizons beyond classroom confines. At the very beginning of her MPH, she volunteered in the “Well, What Were You Wearing?” exhibit, which was conceptualized to shed light on the negative impacts of victim-blaming post-sexual assault. More recently, she took part in the 14th Annual Global Water Alliance Conference and Team Care Planning Pilot for Black Maternal Health on the East Falls Campus.
With a Jefferson MPH, applying knowledge is compulsory through the Clerkship-Applied Practice Experience too. For Hossain, this meant participating in vaccine canvassing around Philadelphia to champion the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
“We have been to a few schools in Philadelphia,” she explains. “I had a great experience educating not only adults but minors as well. I think it gave me a different lens to view public health issues. The learnings from my Cultural Humility and Competence class were beneficial in conveying information to an array of backgrounds. I am especially grateful to have flexible class schedules that allow working in practical settings as and when I need to.”
Despite her program’s rigorous nature, it’s understandable why Hossain feels she’s embarked on an educational journey of a lifetime. Philadelphia’s charm makes it easy for her to manage her comprehensive education — and there’s nowhere else her husband and two young children would rather be.
Recently, they visited Penn’s Landing to enjoy some of the city’s finest carousels and Ferris wheels. Closer to home, the Schuylkill River Trail is another family favorite. “It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Hossain says. “I think Philadelphia is a great study destination and I am happy with my choice to study and live here.”