Charuka Maheswaran | Master of Public Health

Who is Charuka?

My name is Charuka Maheswaran and I use the female pronouns she/her/hers. I was born in Sri Lanka during the civil war and we left to settle in the UK when I was very young. I grew up mostly in Wales, which is a land of mountains, waterfalls and castles. We moved to the colonially named Vancouver Island, BC nearly a decade ago and I raise my family on the Unceded traditional territory of the K’ómoks First Nation, the traditional keepers of this land.

What do you do and why do you do it?

I am a Public Health and Preventive Medicine Resident and am currently in my 4th year of a 5-year training scheme.  Prior to that I was a family doctor for nearly 17 years and have been a medical doctor for nearly 22 years; in that time, I have lived and worked in nearly 60 countries.

 

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by those who have gone before; to quote Newton when talking about Descartes “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” There are so many people I learn from every day and university is such an honour to be able to experience; to be surrounded by bastions of knowledge and by edifices built purely to further human thought is a privilege not afforded to many.

What insights have you gained from your time as an MPH student? 

Doing the MPH, albeit on a shortened schedule as prescribed by our scheme (8 months instead of the usual 2 years), was an intense experience. But I’ve gained not only knowledge in a wide range of subjects, but also connections with professors, many leaders in their field, as well as lifelong friendships with other students. Work done during my MPH has been used in parliamentary information packets; I have given presentations and made connections with organisations I still work with now. Although our studies were all online due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, we all enjoyed meeting and connecting with each other from across the globe through our rapidly adaptable technology and I was reminded that human beings really are remarkable creatures.

 

What is something you wish more people knew about your field of study?

Public health is often ignored, treated as invisible until a crisis occurs, however, like glue, although it is invisible it is what binds society together. Without the framework of population health we wouldn’t be able to maintain the health of a population and society would become dysfunctional and humans would not be able to take the leaps we have in many fields. Public health is fundamental to the existence of our species and its integration and interaction with the rest of the planet.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your field of study?  

I deferred my dreams of public health for a long time for multiple situational reasons, but aside from raising my wondrous children, it is the most interesting and thought-provoking thing I have done; every day brings new ideas and questions to be answered.

 

How do you like to spend your free time?

In my free-time I read, hike, kayak, putter in the garden, spend time with my kids and friends and love to occasionally daydream with a hot cup of tea in hand.

 

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To read more stories, please visit: https://www.spph.ubc.ca/student-profile-miniseries

Published on February 2022.

This interview was coordinated by Ariana Choi.