As part of this month’s #WeAreInternational campaign – giving international students and graduates a platform to share their story about why they chose to study in the UK – Duane Stapleton from the St Vincent and the Grenadines, tells us what attracted him to the UK and how he has found the experience.
I chose to migrate to the UK to join the military and to further my education because after considering the pros and cons, the UK seemed to offer better opportunities for personal development. I undertook my initial BSc in Biomedical Science at De Montfort University in Leicester. This was my subject area of choice due to previous experience in this discipline in St Vincent and the Grenadines and because of my passion for diagnostic medicine.
I have always wanted to play a role in helping others with ill health without actually being on the front-line. After finishing my BSc, I decided to broaden my knowledge and prospects by doing an MSc Environmental Health with the University of Derby Online Learning. Though I am passionate about diagnostic medicine, there is no doubt that “prevention of illness is better than cure”; a saying which I have constantly heard as a child growing up.
I chose to do my MSc online via distance learning because of the high demands with my job as a multidisciplinary Biomedical Scientist. For example, during the 2nd year of my online MSc in 2013-2014, I was deployed to Afghanistan with a team of 7 individuals to provide laboratory support both for troops injured on the battlefield and routine cases. As this was also during the period where the U.K. military was handing over the responsibility to defend their own country to the Afghanistan National Army (ANA), my role also included the training of the ANA to conduct basic laboratory diagnostic procedures and transfusion practice.
During this time I faced the challenge of having to complete 2 modules, including Environmental Policy and Law as well as The Health Impact of Workplace & Food as well as my job. This was the greatest challenge that I have faced so far in my career as I had to overcome various obstacles to meet my submission deadlines whilst performing my primary role of managing the laboratory personnel and maintaining its capability. The primary challenge was the lack of time due to the busy nature of my role and the internet speed and availability to conduct research. Nevertheless, through determination and dedication my submission deadlines were met without the need for any deferrals.
Recently, I have also been deployed to Sierra Leone as a singleton. I was the first Biomedical Scientist to enter the country and my initial role was to set up a functional laboratory whereby British and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) entitled personnel who had not been exposed to the Ebola virus (but supporting the fight against Ebola) can have diagnostic tests undertaken and be treated appropriately. This was all part of a team of healthcare professionals required to have a functioning hospital whereby emergency and routine procedures can be administered. My secondary role apart from managing a small laboratory included health education, health and safety and advisor on diagnostics, emergency response, infection control and prevention. A recent article talks more about my experience of studying whilst tackling Ebola.
I have a special place in my heart for microbiology, infection control, epidemiology and climate change caused by air pollution. Currently, I have been engaged in an epidemiological research project as well as the application of electro-chemistry in auto mobiles to reduce the emission of pollutants. My philosophy is that the air we breathe is the one common thing that all animals and plants on the planet share and take into our bodies. It is therefore a major area that requires protection in order to ensure the longevity and quality of life of all that live and breathe on planet earth.
Studying online has enabled me to get on with my daily working routine which has the advantage of managing my spare time appropriately and flexibly whilst not having to enter an actual classroom. This has worked to my advantage, considering my job role and availability to travel long distances for lectures; a task which I could not endure had online study not been an option! The quality of learning material and support from the university meets international standards excellently and is virtually the same as being in a lecture theatre.