Better serving vulnerable populations by investing in education
For Wah Wah Myint, a doctoral student at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, there has always been a calling to help. In her home country of Myanmar, formerly Burma, she devoted her time to working with the underserved.
“I worked with the community, especially the most vulnerable populations in my country, for more than 10 years,” Myint said. “In working with them I became more interested in how to improve the health of these populations because basically they were left behind.
“I was interested in improving community health and also the prevention and health promotion in countries like ours which has such limits.”
Myint’s desire to increase her knowledge and find other ways to help her community prompted her to begin the process of searching for a university in the United States that would aid her in fulfilling her goal.
“I searched for different universities and I found that Texas A&M was one of the bigger universities that offered a school of public health,” Myint said. “I searched the programs they offered and I found health promotion and community health sciences quite interesting.”
Once she set her sights on Texas A&M, Myint began the process of making the move to the United States, which she said was not difficult since she had previously attended Brandeis University as part of the Fulbright Scholar Program.
“Honestly, this time it was easier for me to make the transition,” she said.
Myint added that the process of making the transition was also eased thanks to Lisako McKyer, PhD, MPH, the senior associate dean for climate and diversity and associate director of the Center for Community Health and Development at the School of Public Health.
“I met with Dr. McKyer when I arrived here to talk about the program, the possibilities and the opportunities,” Myint said. “She was so helpful, not only in giving me academic advice, but other valuable advice and support as well.”
Myint said one of the first things in which she participated was a global health research meeting, which was led by David Washburn, PhD, Jay Maddock, PhD, and Brian Cowell, PhD. She said that meeting was instrumental in helping her solidify what she hopes to accomplish upon completion of her studies, and the professors were very supportive.
It also gave her the chance to meet another individual who has had a big impact on her since she matriculated to Texas A&M: James Burdine, DrPH, interim department head of the Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences and director of the Center for Community Health Development.
“I had the chance to learn from Dr. Burdine, who teaches community development, and it was so useful,” Myint said. “He not only has a lot of academic knowledge, but he also has a lot of experience, which I was not expecting, to be honest, because I thought the professor would have more academic knowledge than practical experiences. Not only him, but also other professors such as Dr. Heather Clark, who I am doing my directed study with. It is so fortunate for me because I have learned a lot from them.”
Recently Myint was awarded the P.E.O. Scholar Award (PSA) by the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O), a philanthropic organization where women celebrate the advancement of women; educate women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans and stewardship of Cottey College; and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations.
The PSA program was established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral-level degree at an accredited college or university. The one-time, competitive, merit-based awards are intended to recognize and encourage academic excellence and achievement by women in doctoral-level programs.
“I found the scholarship opportunity very inspiring because I am interested in education, especially for women,” Myint said. “It means a lot, because their mission targets women’s education.
“It is not only financially rewarding, but also, I am so proud of it because the women receiving this scholarship can contribute so much after they have completed their studies.”
Myint hopes to be one of those women, and return to her home country to give back.
“I will be helping and providing any type of assistance in health and education for women in my country,” she said. “That is what I did before I came here. I will be working with the most-needy populations, and contributing to the health and education sector of my country.”