Doing what he can to change the world

Texas A&M doctoral student Md Mahbub Hossain uses multidisciplinary background to tackle health disparities
November 12, 2021

When it comes to talking about himself, Md Mahbub Hossain, MBBS, MPH, CPH, FRSPH, is quick to deflect the attention, despite all he has accomplished. Already a physician and possessing a master’s in public health, Hossain felt there was more he could do.

Although he displays a reluctance to talk about himself, the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) student in the Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health takes pride in talking about what he hopes to accomplish in his efforts to change the world.

“I am just doing what I can do,” Hossain said. “I am a physician, and when I was a medical student, I was really curious about strikingly evident health disparities around me. I was curious about those, and I thought about how my clinical training could help me look forward and do more.”

With his curiosity piqued, Hossain became interested in differences in health outcomes across population groups and pursued his master’s in public health focusing on health systems and policies. This also led him to working as a policy researcher in low-income countries.

Again, this experience helped him to see that there was much more he could learn, that health problems could be more complex, and that they stretched across other disciplines.

“To become a better contributor, I needed some kind of multidisciplinary education in public health,” Hossain said. “I was looking for doctoral programs that had a more leadership and action-oriented focus, not just a research focus. The School of Public Health at Texas A&M was research-intensive, yet leadership-focused and has a very beautiful legacy of working with critical issues like health disparities among marginalized populations.”

Hossain says he saw first-hand how health disparities came into play when he was completing his physician training in his home country of Bangladesh. During this time, he said he witnessed people dying from preventable causes of disease.

“There were many reasons, but the most important was my self-reflection as a physician because I was treating many patients with a wide-range of health problems and most of the problems were preventable,” he said. “I felt I couldn’t help much sitting in a hospital or a clinic. I realized that health can be promoted in communities and populations, not only in hospitals. I thought I could do something more and learn more about population health.”

Hossain’s latest accomplishment is being part of a team that recently had its research, “Fatal police violence by race and state in the USA, 1980-2019: a network meta-regression,” published in The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and best-known general medical journals. However, he was quick to point out the team aspect of the research.

“The paper was initiated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington,” Hossain said. “It is a phenomenal collaborative study on a very critical topic, and it is published in the best journal in our field.”

The team’s work focused on the mounting evidence that shows that deaths at the hands of the police disproportionately impact people of certain races and ethnicities, pointing to systemic racism in policing. This, they point out, is an urgent public health crisis in the United States.

According to Hossain, the team concluded three things from its research: police violence-related mortality is grossly underreported; there is evidence of systemic racism; and there has been little progress made in the efforts to combat the problem.

Hossain also noted the multidisciplinary aspect of the research and the diverse sources from which that data was accumulated. This, he said leads to the study applying strong models to the issue, and in turn, makes it scientifically powerful.

“We can start with one, but we have to understand the interconnectedness of the problems and at the same time, the connectedness of the solutions and resources,” Hossain said. “We have to see if we can bring diverse resources together and design interventions or systems or policies in a way that takes care of someone.

“When it comes to changing the world, it takes lots of effort and hands from different disciplines.”

— Tim Schnettler

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