Published: 21-12-2021 11:12 | Updated: 22-12-2021 12:00

Meet the ERASMUS Mundus Students of 2021/2022!

The students in the 2021/2022 year of the Erasmus Mundus Master programme Public Health in Disasters are about to complete their time in Sweden and move on. We spoke to Rickkye Gan and Collins Santhanasamy about what made them interested in the programme, what they have learnt and what they will take with them from their time in Sweden.

Two men called Rickkye Gan och Collins Santhanasamy stands infront of a wall of posters from Karolinska Insitutet
Rickkye Gan and Collins Santhanasamy, Erasmus Mundus Students 2021-2022 Photo: Åsa Svensson

Who are you; where are you from and what did you do before you started the Masters?

I am Rickkye and I am a medical doctor from Malaysia. Before starting my Masters, I worked as an emergency doctor in a disaster response team. Most recently, I worked directly under the Malaysian Ministry of Health with public health leadership and governance in response to COVID-19.

And my name is Collins, and just like Rickkye, I am a medical doctor from Malaysia. For the last eight years, roughly, I have worked in non-profit organisations, mainly focusing on community health care, primarily in Bangladesh and southeast Asia.

What made you interested in this Master?

Collins: It was my background working with non-profit organisations that made me want to do this Master and expand my knowledge and skillset. Already when I was in medical school, I founded a project that provided health care through mobile clinics, and ever since I have been exposed to the needs that disasters create. I wanted to learn more about how we can be most effective in providing health care in disasters.

Rickkye: I have always had a passion for medical work conducted outside of the hospital setting and having worked in disaster response teams and the like, I began looking for a suitable Master programme to build on my experiences. I particularly liked this programme because of the ability to study in three different places, and the different backgrounds and the experience that the professors and associated centres have. The fact that there are scholarships available for the programme was another important aspect.

So far, what has been the most valuable thing you have learnt?

Rickkye: I have learnt so much that it is hard to choose, but one thing that stands out is the importance of preparedness, not just response, when you work in disasters. You need to think ahead, that is one important thing that I have learnt.

Collins: I have learnt so much more about different types of disasters and their unique impact and prospects in terms of recovery. And drawing on that, how important prevention is and what we can do to prevent a disaster situation from occurring.

How do you think you will apply the things you have learnt here in your professional life once you have finished?

Rickkye: I hope to explore opportunities to work with NGOs like Médicins sans Frontiers (MSF) and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC). I would like to be a humanitarian aid doctor.

Collins: My goal is to continue to work in the field of public health in disaster, focusing on the community aspect. I want to work on empowering communities to take charge of disaster preparedness and disaster reduction. This programme has really given me a lot of the tools and skills I need to do the work I want to do.

And finally, you have been in Sweden for roughly four months now, what’s the best thing about this place?

Rickkye: Seeing the changes from summer to autumn to winter was amazing and very different to where I am from. It was beautiful to see the leaves change colour! In terms of the Master programme, I have really enjoyed the way that we are mixed with students taking the freestanding course and sometimes also students from MSF who are doing their professional course. It has been very interesting to get to know people and learn from each other.

Collins: People here are very calm and respectful. It is a peaceful atmosphere. With regards to the programme and KI as a university, the facilities here are really good and the programme is a very good steppingstone for young and mid-level professionals. The covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for disaster preparedness and public health in disasters, which shows are relevant this Master programme is.