Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Upul Cooray

Upul Cooray

MSc Dental Public Health Class of 2016

PhD Student, Department of Community & International Oral Health
Graduate School of Dentistry, Tohoku University, Japan
Full testimonial

I am Upul Cooray. Before enrolling to the Msc in DPH at UCL in 2015, I worked as a clinical Dentist for about 4 years in Sri Lanka. Over the course of these years, on a personal note I felt clinical dentistry to be more mechanical practice rather than keeping me intellectually active and stimulated. Hence, I decided to make a career change that would keep me stimulated intellectually. With that purpose in my mind I made a concrete decision to pursue Public Health. To be frank, I had little knowledge on public health and what it could have in store for me. One of my undergraduate mentors who is an UCL alumni, recommended UCL’s MSc in DPH, stating that “it is one of the best public health courses in the world”.

I still remember my first day, walking towards 1-19 Torrington Place nervously, doubting my decision to study public health. I started to like the UCL’s academic environment from my first day because of the diverse composition of students and lecturers in all parallel MSc courses in the department. Nevertheless, the real break of my career happened during the first two weeks of the MSc DPH course. It was a very remarkable transformation for me, as from a very clinical minded dentist who believed in treating individual patients my mindset moved towards a broader perspective of health believing in making real change. This transformation was greatly influenced by the great teachers in the course. It was amazing to see how passionate and invested all the professors and lecturers were about the concepts they talked about.

The 1st semester of MSc was very intense with lots of reading, and with lots of new concepts to grasp. It was a roller-coaster ride between principles of public health, epidemiology, and statistics. But, the flow of the course always kept me interested and kept me thinking actively. In spite of the intense course work, UCL’s MSc exams were the least stressful exams I have faced so far. Mainly because we didn’t have to memorize ‘facts’ for exams. Exams were set purely to test our understanding of the concepts. Which again, is the unique nature of this course.

The 2nd semester DPH programme was designed to perfectly blend all the concepts and skills we learnt during the course, enabling us to have sound conceptual and analytical understanding of public health. This broad and clear understanding was very useful in selecting a topic for my dissertation and carrying it out with confidence.

I am very grateful for all my mentors in the DPH group for their warm, humble and even personal support they offered me to be successful in the MSc. I don’t know how to express my gratitude to them for going beyond their ways and helping me to obtain a very generous scholarship to start a PhD in Japan. The experiences during the MSc period were enriching for my personal development, and were a stepping stone to solidifying the path for my PhD studies and becoming a confident academic. My UCL experience is the key reason for my personal passion to address the inequalities of health.

Today, I can confidently say that the knowledge and experience gathered at UCL, and my personal passion is that what drives me to reach great heights in academia. My experiences at UCL will always be a part of me, and I am confident that it will continue to walk with me into the future, hopefully a sustainable one - where health inequalities are met and addressed.