Former Global Health and Development MSc student Damon Mohebbi describes his recent visit to Bangladesh, where he spent time with our research and clinical partners.
Beautiful Bangladesh: A way to connect to (my) research
In spring 2019 I was confronted with the difficult decision to choose a topic for my Master’s thesis. Being a Global Health student at University College London (UCL) with a background in medicine, I wanted to pursue something new and challenging in both content and methodology.
I talked to my then lecturer and now appreciated supervisor Dr Hassan Haghparast-Bidgoli. While he presented his work with the Bangladesh D-Magic trial, I increasingly realised its scope and magnitude. In a country that lacks programmes specifically designed for its rural populations, sensitive to local needs and resources, this project has greatly contributed in providing evidence on strategies preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Six months after submitting my thesis on the “Economic Evaluation of Diabetes Prevention Interventions in Bangladesh”, I got the unique opportunity to experience the vivid partnership between the UCL Institute for Global Health and the Bangladesh Diabetes Association (BADAS) myself.
Dr Ed Fottrell, who continued to be the principal investigator of the follow-up study D:Clare, connected me with Professor Kishwar Azad, the director of the BADAS-Perinatal Care Project. Thanks to their valuable guidance and ongoing support, I was able to travel to Dhaka for an internship at the General Hospital of the Bangladesh Institute for Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM).
While participating at grand rounds, bedside teaching and seminars, I learnt about the management and care of diverse diseases in differently resourced settings. While talking to Kishwar Azad, her great team and the hospital staff, I witnessed the differences and similarities in the healthcare systems and their health service delivery. While visiting the fields in the rural villages of Faridpur district as part of the scale-up project D:Clare, I observed how baseline surveys and blood glucose tests were carefully conducted by fieldworkers.
All of this has helped me understand where the estimates feeding my economic analyses are coming from and how the underlying data are collected. The search for the origin of my research allowed me to appreciate the relevance of an integrative strategy for application-oriented generation of scientific knowledge.
Global health is far more than theoretical concepts and models. Global health is the dynamic synergy of theory and practical implementation. And as a young member of this discipline, my trip has taught me an important lesson. The significance of connecting to the place you are researching about. The value of exploring life in chaotic Dhaka and experiencing the breathtaking nature, ancient culture and lively society of Bangladesh. This is not a goodbye, but a see you soon.
Pictured below left: in the cardiac catheterization (cath) lab of Ibrahim Cardiac Hospital, run by the Bangladesh Diabetes Association (BADAS). Centre left is Professor Rashid, Chief Executive Officer. Damon is seated centre right.
Pictured below right, front row (left to right): Damon with Professor Kishwar Azad, Project Director, Perinatal Care Project and Professor of Paediatrics, who is coleading the D:Clare project.
Pictured below right, back row (left to right): Prof Azad's colleagues Mithun Sarker, Dr Abdul Kuddus, Sanjit Kumer Shaha, Dr Naveed Ahmed and Mrs Tasmin Nahar.