Farhana Safa: Connecting the Individual with Community Health
Farhana Safa graduated with a Master of Science in Community Health in November. The Bangladeshi-born graduate has always taken a keen interest in addictions and mental health issues within clinical care and research.
“In 2018, my husband and I immigrated to Canada, and I was applying to programs with a mental health focus” she says. “I decided to study at Dalla Lana because it was one of the highest ranked schools in the world.”
Safa is currently a research assistant at the Punjabi Community Health Services working on a project with CAMH which tackled depression and anxiety among South Asian people. “The project also looks at how cognitive behavioural therapy can be adapted to improve mental health conditions.”
MPH student Kelly Ge spoke with Farhana about her educational journey and why she chose DLSPH.
Why did you choose this program and DLSPH?
I graduated from medical school in Bangladesh and there was a small component of research in medical education. During my fourth year, I took part in community-based research. That was when I first got interested in research: how collecting data from individuals can impact the system level to improve the lives of people who are not getting services.
After completing my medical education and internship in clinical care, I decided to pursue my MPH in epidemiology in Bangladesh and explored mental health a bit more in my thesis research.
During my time here at DLSPH, I have worked on several systematic reviews and meta-analyses with my supervisors and really been able to strengthen my knowledge base.
What would have further enriched your experience at DLSPH?
When I was applying to the program, I saw that one of the criteria was working in the health sector so I thought it would be focused on engaging with clients who have mental health and addictions issues. Then I found that that the program is more research-based than client-facing.
So if I had the chance, I would have further engaged with individuals who have mental health and addictions issues during my study period. Now, in my work, I have been having greater exposure and think this would be important for professionals in the area.
What are your future goals?
As my specialization is in addictions and mental health, I strive to make a difference in people’s lives by helping in improving their mental health conditions. My current project provides me with the opportunity to work towards my goals. Mental health stigmatization is a true fact among South Asian people. Coming from a South Asian country, I believe it is my responsibility to contribute to projects aiming to improve the quality of life of South Asian population.
How has the pandemic changed your view of public health?
I was always interested in public health and mental health. When the pandemic started, mental health issues became very prominent. People are suffering more from mental health issues. There is also more awareness on mental health issues.
Now I think, everything is about public health. The vaccination, social distancing, and preventive measures that we are all talking about are embedded in public health, so people now understand the importance of public health and are more aware of these issues. Prevention is important in this context: what you cannot treat, you can prevent.