Postgraduate Health Science Research Showcase

July 12, 2021

Master of Health Science students at EIT Hawke’s Bay campus.

International Master of Health Science students presented findings from their Applied Research Report course to interested EIT staff and postgraduate students on Tuesday 22 June. The course aims to support students in conducting scholarly research on a specific issue or problem in their field of study. The highly informative and engaging session comprised of presentations from ten students covering a spectrum of community health issues from oral health and asthma management to wellbeing and mental health.

Opening the session, Sajeela Ismail presented a scoping review entitled ‘Effectiveness of school-based toothbrushing programmes on oral health of children’. Sajeela’s research aimed to explore the potential of school-based toothbrushing programmes as a public health measure to improve children’s oral health and also as a means of promoting oral health equity.  

As a health professional with a background in paediatric and preventive dentistry, Sajeela has a focus on preventive dental care for children.

“Exploring and promoting diverse options as prophylactic approaches for preventable dental diseases is of utmost interest to me, and this study conceptualised these objectives,” says Sajeela. “The study revealed that school-based toothbrushing programmes are effective ways of promoting oral health and equity among children.”

The study also identified key elements required for the implementation and sustainability of such programmes which could provide a foundation for devising future programmes. Recommendations for future research could also be made based on the gaps in existing knowledge identified along the literature review process.

Being particularly keen on research, Sajeela found the course was a perfect choice since it catered to her interests by providing a clear understanding of the basic research concepts and methodologies.

“I was able to develop my critical thinking and academic writing skills under the remarkable guidance of the facilitators,” she says. “During the course I also got the invaluable opportunity to work with many well-known researchers, which inspired me further and strengthened my resolve to work in the research field.”

The final presentation of the day was given by Antonio Espino. Antonio starting by switching off the lights which focused the attention of the audience on the serious nature of the research he was about to present. Entitled ‘Ocular screening for the detection of COVID-19’, Antonio began his presentation with a poignant reflection on the impact of the pandemic, both globally and on his own community back home in the Philippines.

Having a background in ophthalmology, Antonio based his research on the potential role of ocular transmission in COVID-19 infection.

“The health and economic burden of COVID-19 has affected the lives of most people especially in hotspot countries. As preventive measures have been instituted, COVID-19 continues to affect millions, perpetuating in our minds how the efficient airborne human-to-human transmission occurs,” says Antonio. “The eye being the most exposed organ provides a surface for adhesion of the virus”

Antonio’s systematic mapping review, enabled him to research the different approaches of ocular screening beneficial for detecting COVID-19 and future viral outbreaks.

“The aerosol transmission of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) enters the conjunctival mucosa inciting further spread to the respiratory tract, causing pneumonia and a concomitant compromised state,” he says. “A comprehensive ocular screening process would detect subtle to overt ocular findings which would lead to the detection of COVID-19 before complications arise.”

It is fitting that the session closed with a reflection on the events of the last eighteen months. Antonio and his fellow classmates started their study at EIT in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic escalated across the globe. Along with many other international students, they have shown resilience and determination to succeed in their studies during these unprecedented times. Fast-forward to the middle of 2021 and a very proud moment for this cohort and supporting lecturers, EIT staff, friends and family as they complete their Master’s Degree qualifications at EIT.