Last Friday, I submitted my final assignment for the postgraduate certificate in epidemiology, an “Assessed Assignment” for EPM105 (Writing and reviewing epidemiological papers). So much for a summer break! I did manage to squeeze in family holidays, to the detriment of my studies, and fear that I ended up spending more time on the assignment than I had on the class itself. Time will tell whether that was a wise allocation of my study hours.
In mid-August I finally received my exam results and was very happy that I passed all three. I felt that the big investment of time—on the order of 12 hours a day for 6 weeks with few breaks—had paid off. Exams were a true learning experience for me despite the pain.
With these two events behind me, I’ve made the decision not to stop. Sometime this week, I hope to formalize my decision to switch from the postgraduate certificate to a full MSc in epidemiology. This is a different animal from the one I encountered last year. Simply put, it’s more time, more money, and a longer commitment to being a mainly one-income family of five. Not a decision to take lightly, and I don’t.
But the twin questions I’d posed to myself upon beginning this course of study have been answered. Am I any good at this subject? Passing grades help me to give a qualified ‘Yes’ to this one. And, do I like it? Here, I’m sure. I’ve loved epidemiology since day one. It’s the mixture of so many topics I find fascinating—from math and statistics, to organization management and fieldwork, to policy, culture and ethics.
I’ve tested the waters with this first year. The logical next step, then, is to get a full degree. I had hoped to finish an MSc in two years, but sensible heads have prevailed. A two-year finish would require that I fit far more coursework into the second year, as well as an additional exam and a major project, while just the four courses of the certificate already put me and my family at the limit. I’ll plan instead to finish in three years.
Once my transfer to the MSc is complete, I look forward to registering for four new classes. I’ll take the final two required courses, Study design: Writing a grant application (which unfortunately looks likely to take over my summer holidays in 2014!) and Statistical methods in epidemiology, as well as my first two electives. I’ve chosen Epidemiology of non-communicable diseases and Advanced statistical methods in epidemiology.
A common debate among my fellow students is whether to take one, or both, of non-communicable and communicable diseases. I have decided to take just the former, hoping that it will be more relevant to my chosen field, which is the overlap between stillbirth and global poverty. But more enticing to me than this “content” course are the two stats courses I plan to take—the tools courses. I feel as I did in grammar school, high school and even college at the start of a new year and a new math class: dying to know what those “problems in the back of the book” are like (you know, the ones the teacher never seems to get to). I’ve been fascinated by back-of-the-book problems all my life. I know it will be hard, probably far harder than I guess, but somehow there is still a lot of energy left in me to get started.
Wishing all my fellow students good luck for the start of the new school year.
Susannah has just completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Epidemiology and is now continuing on to the MSc Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine through the University of London International Programmes.