Kunchok Dojree, M.D., M.P.H.
Class of 2010
Please tell us about some of your activities since your graduation from the MPH program?
At the foothills of the tall mountainous range of the Himalayas in the North of India, a scenic town called Dharamsala is situated. Dharamsala is home to hundreds of Tibetan refugees in India. And on a separate hill in Dharamsala, overlooking a dam called Pong at the distant horizon, which is often mistaken by tourists for a vast stretch of clouds, Tibetan Delek Hospital is located, where I am presently working as the Director of the Tuberculosis Control Program.
I finished my MPH program in May 2010 from the Graduate Program in Public Health (GPPH) at Stony Brook University. Given my medical background, Public Health is an excellent additional degree for me. The experience that I have gained from the GPPH at Stony Brook has provided me with exactly the platform that I need for my current work. On top of my day-to-day clinical activity, two of the main focuses of my work have been to control the spread of Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B among the Tibetan population in India. I am happy to say that I am able to make some
important progress in our community especially towards fighting Tuberculosis
and Hepatitis B. I am happy to provide you all with a brief summary of my work:
- Helped in
standardizing the TB Treatment regimens as per WHO guidelines throughout the
Tibetan community. Emphasis has been especially laid on the treatment regimens
of the Multi-drug resistant and Extensively Drug Resistant TB.
- Formed a TB panel
based at Delek which oversees the treatment regimens of all the drug resistant
TB in the Tibetan community which is currently operational.
- In collaboration
with AISPO, organized two crucial TB Conference and workshops for the Tibetan
Physicians and nurses working at the various DoH Set-ups.
- Bridged the gaps
and strengthened the existing ties between the stakeholders nationally and
internationally including DoH, Delek Hospital, AISPO, JHU, Tibet Fund and
Friends of Delek.
- On the process of
improving the ties of TTCP, DoH,CTA and Central TB Division, Govt. of India.
Met on several ocassions with the Himachal Pradesh State WHO consultant, Dr.
Kaushal. Meeting with State TB Officer Dr. Sood on the coming 23rd of
September. Laying the groundwork for meeting with the Director General of TB at
Ministry of Health, Govt. of India soon to discuss on the MOU between the RNTCP
and TTCP. Facilitating the all important conversations at various levels.
- Facilitated Johns
Hopkins in applying for the WHO TB Reach Grant. Currently facilitating
the smooth running of the TB Reach Project in the capacity of the Principal
Sub-Investigator of the Grant. Dr. Richard Chaisson is the PI.
- Introduced our
program to the international community through my presentation during the US
National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine Conference at New Delhi held
in April this year.
- Travelled to all
the major DoH Set ups including Bylakuppe, Hunsur, Kollegal, Mundgod (South
India) and Dekyiling to analyze the TB situation and strengthen the individual
TB sections in the respective set-ups.
- Currently in the
process of building up a uniform and robust TB data recording and reporting
system both for Delek and all DoH set-ups and exploring the possibility of
integrating TB data in the HIS.
- Helped AISPO in
planning on its activities including providing inputs on how the remaining
AISPO funds can be best utilized. One example is purchasing sputum cultures in
advance at Hinduja lab in Mumbai so that drug resistant TB is detected at the
earliest in the Tibetan Community. This will likely last for the next four
years atleast, given the current rate of TB in our set-up.
- Revised all the
TB treatment cards of TTCP. I am proud to say now that we have one of the best
TB treatment cards in the world both for Non MDR TB as well MDR TB.
- Updated our new
govt. led by Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) Dr. Lobsang Sangay on the TB
situation in the Tibetan community and on the latest developments on the TB
front. Dr. Sangay has been very supportive and offered to provide whatever
support he can.
How has your MPH degree influenced your career?
Right after I graduated from medical school in 2004, I began my work as a medical officer in Delek Hospital in Dharamsala, which serves both the local Indian and Tibetan populations. I saw a lot of infectious diseases including TB and Hepatitis B, which are endemic in the region. However, with time, I realized that unless the diseases are rooted out from the community, they would always continue to plague the community. I felt that I was lacking a background in public health. And this experience in the MPH program equipped me with exactly the skills and vision I need to take on this challenge. I feel that right now, I am not only treating patients on a one-on-one basis, but that I am treating a whole community. My public health background has not only helped me to serve the community more effectively, but it has also opened up a whole new avenue for my future career.
What advice would you give a new student just starting the program?
I feel that it is always very important to start planning right from the beginning of the MPH program about what you would be doing after you finish the program. And along the way, we pick up a lot of skills including research methods, statistical skills, etc. but I realized that it is very important to put into use and practice what we have learned; otherwise sometimes it can be easy to forget.
A word of Thanks
Given my humble refugee background, I always feel honored that I was given the opportunity to study in one of the best institutions in the world. When I first reached the GPPH in the fall of 2008, I first met Dr. Raymond Goldsteen and after I introduced myself, he told me, “Please feel free to ask if you have any problems.” It made me feel at home. Throughout my study, Dr. Karen Goldsteen has been my advisor, and she has been just so helpful. And all my professors have been simply wonderful. Thank you!! GPPH at Stony Brook will always be a fond memory in my life.