For Charles Hamilton, the term “by any legal means necessary” has new meaning after he liquidated his assets, exhausted his savings and had to resort to running two crowdfunding efforts to secure finances to complete his double Master’s degree in public health with a specialization in health economics and governance of health systems.
Hamilton, the first person in his family to obtain an undergraduate degree, graduated with distinction and a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.85 from the competitive Erasmus Mundus Europubhealth+ (EPH+) European Masters of Public Health Program on July 5. He wrote his thesis on “A Review of National Adaptation Planning for Climate Change and Public Health in the Caribbean”.
He departed The Bahamas literally on a wing and a prayer in search of that Master’s degree. After one internship and thesis, two years of travels and studies, three countries – the United Kingdom, Poland and France, and a ton of important memories and experiences – he has unlocked his achievement. He officially graduated on July 5.
The “road” to obtaining his Master’s degree took him to the University of Sheffield School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) – England, September 2017 – June 2018; École des hautes études en santé publique (EHESP) – Rennes, France, June – July 2018 and June – July 2019; and Jagiellonian University Medical College – Krakow, Poland, October 2018 – January 2019, for specialization in governance of health systems in transition (public health policy/administration and health economics).
He was the country’s second Bahamian and first male to participate in the program. Arvis Mortimer was the first.
“It feels a bit surreal to be honest,” said Hamilton of completing his degree. “The successful completion of my Master’s thesis and graduation dissertation marks the completion of my two-year journey in the Erasmus Mundus Europubhealth+ European Masters of Public Health Program.”
Hamilton said he’s excited and ready to become a passionate new addition to the public health workforce and he credits his dissertation supervisor, Dr. Andrzej Pajak, who he was paired with to initially address a different topic, but who he said provided the support, guidance and patience to allow him to explore a topic that still managed to be relevant to the country and the Caribbean region.
“This has culminated in the production of a paper which I believe will provide an even bigger impact than my initial topic and which I look forward to publishing and adding to the body of work of Bahamian and Caribbean researchers,” said Hamilton.
“I remain thankful to God for being able to reach this important milestone in my life. I am also so grateful for the support, kind words and encouragement that I have received from my family, friends, professors and so many other people across my networks – seen and unseen. Without [their] belief in me and financial contribution to my education – this day would not have been possible.”
But for Hamilton, learning never ends. After graduation, he traveled to Brussels, Belgium, July 13-21, where he attended the Andrija Stampar Summer Educational and Tutoring School (ASSETS) which brought together some of the biggest persons in public health in Europe to act as mentors and guide attendees in developing public competencies and future projects. The experience was funded by the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) and EPH+ European Master in Public Health Consortium.
“I made some really good connections and look forward to only developing further as a leader and public health practitioner,” said Hamilton.
He returned to Poland, before he travels to Berlin mid-August to be a trainer and deliver a workshop on Health Communication and Media Engagement at the Young Leaders for Health Conference, a bi-annual event in Europe at which young public health workers gather to develop their skills and create practical solutions for ongoing public health challenges.
Hamilton said they will address the shortages in the health workforce – an issue he said is of considerable importance for The Bahamas – which he said would segue well into when he returns home. His not returning home would be a disservice to the Bahamian public.
And when exactly will Hamilton return to The Bahamas?
“This is a very nuanced question. I have already submitted my CV (curriculum vitae) and have reached out to a wide range of organizations and people back home that can use someone with my skillset. Nevertheless, I have also been exploring opportunities outside the country as well, both within the region (North America and the Caribbean) and also in Europe. I believe an important part of developing innovative solutions for our country is understanding the contexts, opportunities and health challenges seen in other countries as well – this is even more so in the area of public health.”
Hamilton said he’s applied for several grants/opportunities that would allow him to support climate change and health issues in the country, and also highlight his research from an advocacy position for The Bahamas’ fight against climate change.
Hamilton previously told The Nassau Guardian that he has always valued education. His passion and dedication for public health goes back to high school. He attended St. Andrew’s School on a full scholarship after graduating as the top student from H.O. Nash Junior School.
EPH+, since its inception 10 years ago, has over 300 alumni from over 70 countries. EPH+ provides a unique opportunity for participants to obtain a double master’s degree in Public Health, delivered by six top European universities, while experiencing international mobility across the European continent and obtaining practical public health experience through a competitive work placement scheme.
Hamilton also said he looks forward to giving back by serving on the Europubhealth Students and Alumni Association, EPHSA Board and contributing towards the ongoing strengthening of the EPH+ European Master in Public Health program.
“I also look forward to guiding more students from the Caribbean towards this program and ensure our region can contribute to more innovative solutions for global health challenges. I remain hopeful, and look forward to new opportunities to improve the lives of the people of The Bahamas and the Caribbean and across the globe and remain excited to see the impact my classmates will make in the world of public health.”