HEARD PhD students, Patience Bulage and Sarah Khanakwa, have described their experience at the University of Gothenburg as one which has expanded their worldview and helped them gain international contacts and skills which will assist in their studies and future careers.
Their visit to was part of a research, teaching and student exchange partnership between HEARD and the Swedish University’s medical school, Sahlgrenska Academy.

Khanakwa said she had expected to see a majority of Swedes in her class but was fascinated to find that her 43 classmates came from 23 different countries, many of whom she had the opportunity to interact with during and after classes. “There is a lot of practical engagement of students through assignment of project work which facilitates in-depth understanding of the concepts and theories,” she said. These included, data organization, descriptive statistics and statistical inferences.
While in Sweden, they also attended the Swedish Network for International Health (SNIH) conference. In its 5th year, the annual conference was established to connect public and global health students and professionals. “The networking session at the conference facilitated critical contacts with experts in different public health specialisations. The sessions highlighted further public health gaps especially in developing countries in Africa,” said Khanakwa. “It was very inspiring listening to others and learning from their vast backgrounds. In a way, it provoked in-depth reflections about PhD study in general and my desired outcomes and ambitions after,” said Bulage. They also presented their research topics to students from Gothenburg as well as Lund, Uppsala, and Karolinska Universities. “HEARD is known among the students. They seemed eager to explore HEARD because they believe it will offer good experience which will be fundamental to their career growth in global and public health,” said Bulage.

Vice Chairperson of the SNIH, Bhitariyo Mulimba, said that listening to Bulage and Khanakwa gave the predominantly Masters-level students insight on doctoral studies. “It was fascinating to hear about their work experience, their PhD research and HEARD and the PhD programme. I especially like that there is an element of female empowerment, it’s amazing that the organisation strives to encourage women to participate and excel in academia,” she said. Mulimba said she also appreciated that the programme encouraged students to do field work in their home countries for the improvement of the livelihoods of their fellow countrymen.
Bulage and Khanakwa are expected to start conducting field work next year before returning to UKZN and HEARD to complete their PhDs.