An interview with Mustafa Andkhoie, PhD Student

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Mustafa Andkhoie. I am a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan. My studies are in the areas of prostate cancer treatments and decision-making in Saskatchewan, using methods such as spatial epidemiology and computer simulation modelling. I have a graduate degree in Public Health and an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Physiology. Currently, I am also working as an epidemiologist at the First Nations Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB) of Health Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan. I have previously worked for Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, the University of Saskatchewan and Agri-Food and Agriculture Canada.

Please share your experience of working in the Public Health industry while doing your PhD at the same time.

I am currently working in the Health Surveillance Assessment unit at FNIHB and also continuing my doctoral studies at the School of Public Health in the Epidemiology program. I find it very gratifying to be able to apply my public health trainings at work and simultaneously acquire knowledge in current public health practices through my studies.

My weekly schedule involves working full-time from Monday to Friday and working on my research on evenings and weekends. The majority of my studies involves research activities using information available in the literature, which allows me to work on my studies from home. For example, I plan to use dynamic computer models for parts of my research, and dynamic models often use information from expert-opinions or current literature.

I attempt to manage my time to make sure I am able to have a great work, school and life balance. That definitely involves having realistic goals for my studies. In addition, it also involves self-motivation which requires setting deadlines for certain tasks and breaking down my research tasks into smaller components to keep it manageable and attainable. The rewards of being able to work in an area that I am passionate about and also to be able to further my scientific knowledge has been one of my drivers to continue in this path despite the challenges. I recommend prospective public health practitioners to pick the path that makes most sense to their own situations. Personally, my belief is that attaining experience in Public Health industry is as important as furthering one’s education.

What experience outside of education proved to be valuable in shaping or enhancing your career?

I personally think having a diverse portfolio makes one more marketable. I made sure I was seeking experiences in different areas of academia and public health including teaching, and partaking in multidisciplinary projects during my first two years of doctoral studies. I took opportunities to assist in teaching public health courses, and work on research projects from other disciplines such as nursing and computer science which further broadened my horizons.

It is also important to network with public health practitioners from local, provincial and national levels. Attending conferences and connecting with other public health practitioners continues to be crucial for enhancing my career.

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