by Christine Elie, July 2012
“For many years I had a passion for medicine and a desire to work in the health care field. I always wanted to be a physician but didn’t really like the revolving door style of care where we treat the illness and neglect the health of patients.” It was this predicament that moved David Beking to look towards the Master’s of Public Health program at Queen’s University.
Passionate about patient health, David turned to Queen’s to find a program that underlined the study of health and did not focus solely of illness. He says “I applied to an MPH because the field has a focus on preventative medicine and attempts to address health concerns before they become illness.” What made him chose Queen’s was more than this though, it was also both the reputation of the university in the public health field and the hands on approach, which is best demonstrated in the four-month summer placement which provides valuable work experience for the students.
Drawn to the hands-on approach of the program David is currently working at the Kingston Street Health Center in Kingston. The center is for marginalized populations in Kingston and provides primary health care, methadone dispensing, needle exchange, counselling, psychiatry and Hepatitis C treatment. As with all MPH students, David had a hand in choosing his placement. He was drawn to this one, “I chose my current project both for the research experience and my desire to work with marginalized populations.” David’s interest in marginalized populations is undeniably a motivating factor in his work, and has pushed him to travel the globe.
His current research looks at the effectiveness of Hepatitis C treatment in current and former injection-drug users under a multi-disciplinary treatment model as a community health center. What makes this work particularly stimulating is the results that they have obtained: “we have been able to support the conclusion that treatment is just as effective in drug users as it is in the general population, a view not currently held by health care.”
During his years as an undergraduate at the University of Ottawa, David volunteered for the Ottawa Inner city Ministry working with marginalized populations. It was also during this time that he went on several volunteer trips to both clinics and orphanages that brought him to Mexico, Guyana, Uganda and Costa Rica.
When David graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in Health Sciences, he took a year off to work in Ukerewe, Tanzania as a field health officer for CIDA. “I worked mainly on a needs assessment of health care and other public health programs which lead me to Queen’s MPH. After returning from a year in east Africa, I applied to Queen’s and began the MPH program that September of 2011.”
In October of that year, David joined the board of directors of the organization that helped him get to Africa. They are currently working on several new programs, “we are beginning exciting new programs in the African countries we work in; a new maternal health program based on the train the trainer’s model, a farmer’s field school to improve nutrition and crop diversity of the local people and many more health care based initiatives.”
It was on his return from Africa that David’s perspective on international health and marginalized communities changed. “Coming back to Canada after a year was a huge culture shock and anyone who’s lived internationally will be able to relate to the feelings and changes that occur.” David began to see the need to pay closer attention to the marginalized communities in his own backyard. “I began to realize that you don’t need to travel half way around the world to work with marginalized populations. Canada has many marginalized groups such as the communities in Northern Canada and the homeless in our own communities.” It was this realization that opened David’s eyes to the need for local action. He says “this realization led me to my placement at the street health center and will hopefully lead to more work in this area and into Northern Canada as well.”
When David completes his Master’s degree he hopes to continue on to medical school and become a physician with a focus on public health. On his future, David says “my dream job would either be a medical officer of health – combining both medicine and public health – or a physician with a practice in rural parts of Canada. Whichever route I end up taking after this program, my passion continues to be with marginalized groups in our communities.”