Student Highlight – Dr. Veenu Minhas is an UNMC College of Public Health (COPH) MPH student in the epidemiology concentration. She entered the program in spring 2001 and plans to complete her coursework at the end of the current semester and begin her service-learning project in spring 2013.
Dr. Minhas became interested in public health during her experience overseas. While pursuing her PhD and later on as a postdoctoral fellow in virology, she worked as a project director for a large epidemiological study in Zambia, Africa, to study the transmission of Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV). This virus is associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a skin cancer commonly found in HIV-infected patients. KSHV infection is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Along with the emergence of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, the incidence of KS has also increased manyfold. Dr. Minhas has travelled to Zambia twice, which helped her to see and appreciate different perspectives on the problem. She was happy doing research work on collected samples in Nebraska, but in Zambia she came face to face with the study participants and came to appreciate the reality and severity of the problem firsthand. This project deeply connected Dr. Minhas to epidemiology and its importance. She decided to pursue formal training in this area, which ultimately brought her to the MPH epidemiology program at the UNMC COPH.
Dr. Minhas’s interests are in infectious disease/cancer research programs. She is a nontraditional student; she attended her classes via distance education—attending in real time the on-campus class from an off-campus site. She regrets that she did not get the opportunity to take full advantage of all campus activities and to personally connect with her peers. Nevertheless, Dr. Minhas appreciates the opportunity that the COPH has given her to expand her knowledge about public health and epidemiology, especially via distance education. The COPH is placing many of its courses online, affording students the opportunity to take courses from anywhere in the world with Internet access. Dr. Minhas states that “accessing classes via distance and now online opens opportunities for students like me who would otherwise have not been able to further their education and training.”