Fully online public health diploma boosts new graduate’s efforts to improve health services

Posted on May 21, 2024

Raeesa Dawood was already a health expert leading the way in pharmaceutical services – now she can add University of Pretoria (UP) postgraduate alumna to her list of accomplishments. Marking a significant achievement in her ongoing education, Dawood recently received her Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Public Health – which she completed fully online via UPOnline.

Dawood, Head of Pharmaceutical Services at well-known microbiological laboratory Microchem, is one of many top health professionals who chose to continue their education while working, by completing a UPOnline programme offered by Comprehensive Online Education Services (COES).

She says obtaining her PGDip in Public Health, her first qualification from UP and fourth overall, was a seamless integration of her professional and academic aspirations, facilitated by COES.

"The University of Pretoria is ranked among the top institutions in South Africa and has a reputation for academic excellence,” Dawood says. "The university's commitment to fostering a supportive learning environment for its students and its emphasis on innovative research and community engagement were particularly appealing.”

With three degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal – a Bachelor of Medical Science in Anatomy and Microbiology; a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration; and a Master's in Business Administration – already under her belt, Dawood says UP offered her the perfect opportunity to advance her knowledge without stepping back from her career responsibilities. 

“The programme's focus on real-world applications of public health theory, its interdisciplinary approach, and the opportunity to engage with leading experts in the field perfectly align with my career aspiration.”

Raised in Durban and now living in Boksburg, her professional path in microbiology led her to significant roles, including instrumental ones such as testing vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic. This hands-on experience and the need for an enhanced understanding of public health propelled her to enrol for the UPOnline programme.

Dawood obtaining her PGDip in Public Health with distinction, and attributes her success to the supportive environment at UP, praising the programme's high standards and organised structure.

“My lecturers, with their profound expertise and enthusiasm for public health, played a pivotal role in deepening my understanding and passion for the field. My peers in the programme shared a collaborative and supportive environment where everyone contributed diverse perspectives, which enriched our collective learning experience and helped us navigate the intensive coursework together. On a more personal level, the unwavering support from my family and friends was crucial. They encouraged me relentlessly, providing both emotional and motivational support.”

Dawood says her UP qualification gives her a greater understanding of public health and makes her more prepared to address pressing public health issues with innovative solutions.

Her advice to those who want to enrol for the PGDip in Public Health: “Always remember the bigger picture; your work in public health can potentially improve lives and communities. Let this motivate you throughout your studies and beyond as you apply what you have learned to address real-world public health challenges.”

A total of 282 students, most of them working individuals, were awarded their fully online Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health at UP’s Autumn graduation ceremonies in April and May. Among those, 49 students achieved distinctions in their qualifications.

- Author Vuyokazi Mdebuka and Amanda Tongha

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