Graduation Spotlight: Mamun Rahman
May 24, 2023
Master of Public Health (MPH) student Mamun Rahman wrote his statement of purpose to attend UAlbany while sitting inside Rikers Island adolescent jail in NYC. He was there to provide training to correctional staff and incarcerated individuals on mental health first aid on behalf of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and felt inspired to write about his need to acquire more public health knowledge to make a difference in mental health work.
When transitioning from the trauma section of the training to talking about substance use, Rahman had listened to a personal anecdote that spurred him to pursue more education: an adolescent was raised by an abusive father who would punish him by making him choose between different illicit drugs at only six years old.
“I shared this in my personal statement because that day I felt inadequate to change the condition of the young man except to say a few words of comfort and set a hopeful tone for his future in what little way I could,” Rahman reflects. “On my drive off the island that afternoon, I thought about social determinants of health without knowing the term itself, and in the next few days started looking for master's programs in public health, landing on UAlbany as the top choice. The rest is history.”
Rahman started by completing the online certificate in public health fundamentals while continuing to work at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“With every class, it felt like I unlocked yet another way to advocate for incarcerated individuals with unique mental needs through proficiency taught at UAlbany in trauma-informed care, cultural competence and crisis intervention. As I look forward, I know my time at the School of Public Health will serve me well into the distant future,” Rahman says.
After completing the certificate program, Rahman rolled the credits he had earned into the MPH program and continued to take courses. He notes that he’s thankful for the Public Health Leaders of Tomorrow (PHLOT) funding he received, which offers tuition assistance for state and local health department employees to take academic coursework at the University at Albany School of Public Health and promotes leadership development activities for students preparing for public health careers in New York State government.
To meet the internship requirement of the MPH program, Rahman pursued a secondary role at his local health department, serving as program lead for Promoting Mental Health in the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Communities, or PMH-AANHPI. For this program, which began earlier this year, workshops will aim to learn from community members and leaders about their perspectives on behavioral health status, priorities and needs while offering information about mental health services, skills and strategies for resilience and mental well-being.
“Serving as program lead provided the intended goal of the internship in the best way. Dr. Kirkwood, the director of online education, helped me to go from simply studying about health promotion programs in theory to designing one and exercising those developing MPH muscles,” Rahman says. “It was about integrating at one point Professor Hutton’s lessons on organizational dynamics, at another point Professor Ruland's lessons on professional practice, or even the core tenets of Dr. Hastings' public health promotion class. I'm so grateful for the opportunity afforded through this partnership between SPH and NYC DOHMH."
Rahman graduated this May.
“I owe the School of Public Health everything when it comes to success and fulfillment in my work,” he says. “What started as a job is now a career thanks to the coursework, practical experience and training I got at SPH. I consider myself a mental health advocate now that I know some of the tools with which to fight for vulnerable populations.”