Alumni We Love

Reflections on My Time at Hebrew University

Dr. Colleen Bovell, MD, MPH

I like to say if I had not come, I would not have known the beauty of Jerusalem much more than I was told. I will say without hesitation that the International Master of Public Health (IMPH) Program at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Jerusalem, Israel is the best. One that promotes inclusion, diversity and multiculturalism.

Alumni We Love - Dr. Colleen Bovell

Describe how you came to study at Hebrew University and when?

I grew up in a country called Guyana. Access to educational opportunities presented many challenges. One of which was inequitable distribution of scholarships. Back in 2019, I was at the point in my career wondering what’s next. It must have been divine intervention. My mentor, Geraldine Hall, messaged me and sent me a link that she thought would be something I would be interested in. At that time, I had never heard of HUJI and decided to do my research. I became curious and applied. A few months later I received an acceptance letter. At the end of October 2019, I left my 3 children, Naiomi, Naiheem and Naiaz to embark on a new journey. A journey to spread health and hope to the world. As Thomas Carlyle (a British philosopher) said “He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”

How did studying at Hebrew University influence or impact your life?

The greatest impact for me was in my religious life as a Seventh Day Adventist. The similarities of my faith with the Jewish community was astounding. I would celebrate the Sabbath from Friday evening at sunset to Saturday evening at sunset just as they did. A bonus for me as there would be no classes during that time. Visits to sites like the Via Dolorosa and Jordan River Baptismal Place helped me to renew my faith. After completing the program, I was baptized within a few months. This was so meaningful to me because the Bible teaches us to seek God first and everything else will be added unto us.

Through the IMPH program I was able to develop knowledge and skills in major public health issues such as mental health. Prior to my studies, I had never had a tele-consult. Now it is one way I use to compliment access to mental health services for my clients.

In the second semester Covid came. It was a sad time for us all being away from our families. But on the other hand, we were making history as the first IMPH graduates to complete the program during a pandemic. We had already built lasting friendships and supported each other throughout our remaining months.

My one word to describe my experience is “Tzababa/Sababa.”

Toda raba to everyone who supports the IMPH program.

  • Colleen is a lecturer at the Georgetown American University in Guyana. She is currently residing in Toronto, Ontario.

Alumni We Love - Dr. Colleen Bovell