Dr. Ransi Nayakarathna, a student in the Master of Science, Public Health specialization at ULethbridge, says investigating disease at the population level as an epidemiologist is just the kind of career she’s looking for in the public health field.

Epidemiology is the study of disease in human populations, why it occurs and how to prevent it. It’s about learning a specific set of skills so you can ask the right questions and then take action to answer those questions through research to promote human health.

And for Ransi, who earned her medical degree in Sri Lanka, where she worked as a physician and physiology and biochemistry lecturer, it sounds like the perfect fit.

Using prevention and health promotion

“Before starting this graduate degree, I didn't have a specific career in mind, only an interest and a passion for public health. But after taking courses in advanced epidemiology and biostatistics, I realized this is where my strengths lie,” she says.

Although Ransi’s experience is as a physician, she says she was attracted to a master’s degree in public health because she likes the idea of employing primary prevention and health promotion strategies to help populations stay well, rather than treating patients when they’re already sick.

“I have been out of school for few years, so going back to studies and interacting with fellow public health enthusiasts has been a wonderful experience for me,” Ransi says.

“I researched several degree programs and supervisors for a long time before applying, so it wasn’t surprising that the quality of the program was outstanding. But it was amazing how staff and students adjusted to this new virtual reality (during COVID-19) very quickly while maintaining the same quality and standard of the program."

Work-Life-School Balance

And, like many, balancing a new virtual classroom with family life – along with her work as both a teaching and research assistant at the University of Lethbridge – has been a juggling act for Ransi.

“It was hard initially, especially with the pandemic. Going online and working from home while balancing a family with three small kids was challenging. But once you find your balance and a routine, it became easier. Also, the professors and all the staff were very understanding and supportive.”

To finish her program, Ransi plans to add an applied work practicum to her busy schedule.

Unlike most other public health programs, this program offers a well-balanced course selection that prepares you for your future career, a practicum option to get hands-on experience at a local or an international workplace of your choice, and if you want to further your education and do a PhD, it prepares you for that with the master’s thesis you are doing. It is rare to find a graduate course that offers all these three options together.”

When Ransi’s not studying, working, researching and career planning, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking and is looking forward to the day she can once again travel.

Become a disease detective like Ransi, learn more about graduate programs in Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge.