Biomedical Sciences

Daniel Mwangi Njuguna (MSc IAH, 2017 Winter Graduation)

Daniel Mwangi Njuguna tells us how the International Animal Health programme helped him develop his knowledge of zoonotic diseases in the dairy sector in Kenya.

Choosing to study at the University of Edinburgh has been the best decision I made in my life. I have become academically confident, knowledgeable and a proud alumnus of one of the most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. I would encourage any prospective candidate interested in animal health to choose the University of Edinburgh and especially the MSc International Animal Health.

Daniel Mwangi NjugunaMSc International Animal Health

 

Daniel Mwangi Njuguna with camels

Unpasteurised milk as a route for zoonotic infections

I have always been fascinated by the interest that stakeholders in the Dairy sector in Kenya display concerning dairy hygiene and safety of milk. I had worked for over 20 years before enrolling for the MSc in International Animal Health at the University of Edinburgh. I held a Diploma in Dairy Technology before completing a Degree in Community Development in 2012, where I gained experience in the Kenya Dairy Board, the dairy industry regulatory headquarters in Nairobi. It’s during this period that I appreciated the importance of a one-health perspective in dairy production and dairy food safety.  Consumption of milk and milk products is relatively high in Kenya compared to other sub-Saharan countries. In some parts of the country, milk is consumed unpasteurized and this can serve as a route for zoonotic transmission of infections and can contain contaminants such as antibiotic residues.

Daniel Mwangi Njuguna with Kenyan women

One-health approach

Having worked at the Dairy Training Institute, Naivasha as an Instructor in Dairy Technology I wanted to do a Masters that would help me leave an impression on rural community health and livelihood in line with the institute slogan, ‘Milk brings health and wealth’. The University of Edinburgh’s International Animal Health programme fitted well to my requirements. It had a one-heath approach and was entirely online, meaning I could continue my work and study without interruption. I was also fortunate as I was selected for a Commonwealth Scholarship Commission scholarship which fully funded my tuition fees.

Daniel Mwangi Njuguna with Kenyan women

Career gains

The support and guidance I received during application of admission, scholarship and subject matter by staff of the University will always be memorable, especially from Dr Ewan MacLeod. He was extremely supportive and inspiring throughout the three years of the programme.   I decided to study at the University of Edinburgh because of the reputation of its programmes. And true to this I have received several offers as a consultant internally at work and externally in the industry. My employer has on several occasions entrusted me with more responsibility to train farmers to improve the hygiene of milk and milk products during production and along the milk value chain at various remote parts of the country. In real life most of the knowledge has become useful because of its relevance. The skills learned on application of grants, preparation of scientific posters, and design of a lay summary are now part of my lifetime skills.  My knowledge in Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary standards (SPS) has become handy as our institute embarks on a review of curriculum in the area of food safety.  

Time-management skills

Herd of cows

Though online learning was new to me, the state-of-the-art Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard Learn) was easy to embrace. The teaching style and approach was simple and easy to follow. Class notes were always provided at the start of each week and were easily accessible and downloadable. This made it easy to read even when away in the field where an internet connection was not available. The University e-library (DiscoverEd) was the best tool for my research. It has some of the best, seemingly inexhaustible resources; e-journals, databases, e-books, exam papers, theses and subject-specific resources. Due to the nature of the delivery of the course I was able to develop time management skills and to meet deadlines. I would recommend these skills be learned early at the beginning of course by a new entrant. The programme exposed me to the most current research findings giving me an upper hand against my colleagues. However, I have continued to share the experiences with my workmates.

Exchanging experiences worldwide

The most exciting learning approach was the Discussion Board, where students exchanged varied ideas and experiences from different countries and continents by means of a written scientific methodology. It has enriched my understanding of how people solve similar or different animal health challenges in different countries. Although I did not have a veterinary background I worked extra hard to master the field. My best subject was Zoonotic diseases. Project planning and decision support for animal disease control was an important assignment for preparation of the final dissertation.

Global Health Summer School

The icing of the training is the Global Health Summer School. I was glad to attend two summer schools in Kigali (Rwanda in 2015) and Kampala (Uganda 2016). This provided an opportunity to meet some of our lecturers, staff of the University of Edinburgh and fellow student cohorts. During the summer school I was able to receive face-to-face advice and expectations of our supervisors during the preparation of writing a dissertation. I was able to meet students from as far apart as New Zealand, Europe, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria and even those closer to home such as Uganda.  This has left a permanent friendship and network of people from different countries and backgrounds. It was also an opportunity to meet with greatly reputed academics and editors like Professor Michael Thrusfield in the field of veterinary epidemiology.

Assisting remote groups

For my dissertation I chose the topic “Public health risks related to informal and formal milk marketing in Kenya: A study of the brucellosis and antibiotic residue knowledge base of milk handlers in Naivasha sub-county.” I owe my success to the guidance of my supervisor Dr. Anna Okello, assisted by Dr. Ewan MacLeod, the International Animal Health programme supervisor. I chose this topic because of my interest in dairy hygiene and milk safety.

In 2019 I joined a foundation to assist some of the most remote and marginalised groups in my country, replacing traditional milking utensils with modern stainless steel containers while training them on the dangers of consuming raw milk. 

Best decision

Choosing to study at the University of Edinburgh has been the best decision I made in my life. I have become academically confident, knowledgeable and a proud alumni of one of the most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. I would encourage any prospective candidate interested in animal health to choose the University of Edinburgh and especially the MSc International Animal Health.

Related Links

MSc International Animal Health