Phoebe Tuyishime, MPH’24

Phoebe Tuyishime recently completed their Master in Public Health at UBC. She was awarded the prestigious MasterCard Foundation Scholarship, which enabled her to pursue her undergraduate degree in Public Health Nutrition and a minor in Global Public Health and Epidemiology from Michigan State University. Subsequently, Phoebe received a similar scholarship for her Master’s studies at UBC.

She has a strong passion for tackling public health issues, particularly nutrition and food insecurity. Phoebe’s experiences, including working with the Clinton Health Access Initiative in Rwanda, have shown her the positive impact of effective public health efforts, especially in addressing critical issues like nutrition, sanitation, and infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Phoebe’s ultimate goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in a few years and establish a Public Health Nutrition Research and Policy Institute in Rwanda.

What drew you to the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at UBC?
In pursuit of my career aspirations, I sought to strengthen my fundamental public health skills, including epidemiology and knowledge translation, while enhancing my understanding of global health issues. The Master of Public Health (MPH) program at UBC emerged as the ideal fit, as it encompasses learnings in epidemiology, biostatistics, and global health. I was especially drawn to the global health initiative targeting cervical cancer spearheaded by Dr. Gina Ogilvie at the School of Population and Public Health. Her holistic approach to addressing global public health challenges, which integrates community insights to tackle critical issues in low-income countries, deeply resonated with me and left a lasting impression.

How has studying in the MPH program made an impact on you?
My studies increased my understanding of the inequities faced by minority populations and their roots in systemic discrimination and colonization. The program has also provided me with valuable knowledge in program planning, implementation, and evaluation, using epidemiological methods.

What was something you learned in the MPH program that surprised you?
One of the most eye-opening experiences was learning about Indigenous approaches to health, which emphasize a holistic balance of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. This contrasts with the Western biomedical focus and underscores the importance of incorporating culturally safe practices, even in research.

What is your favorite memory from your time at UBC?
My favorite memories include sharing meals with colleagues after exams and engaging in open dialogues with professors about colonization, racism, and discrimination, which broadened my perspective on these issues.

Where do you find inspiration?
When I was in my undergraduate program, the program advisor of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars at Michigan State University used to say, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ I grew up in a very small country, where only 3% of people have college degrees. My country still has lots of public health nutrition problems like chronic undernutrition among children (stunting), and high rates of infectious diseases. I feel indebted to these children and this gives me the inspiration to move forward.

What does a healthy society mean to you?
A healthy society is one that ensures equity by providing equal access to healthcare and other determinants of health, thereby eliminating injustices and inequalities. Tackling income disparities is essential for achieving such a society.

What are your plans after graduation?
I am currently working in Student Health and Wellbeing at UBC, where I focus on food insecurity. I am excited to leverage my public health expertise to assist implementation and evaluation of interventions aimed at reducing poor health and academic outcomes among university students, particularly among minority groups.

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