Dr John Phuka
Dean of the School of Public Health and Family Medicine Senior Lecturer Public Health

I have an over 20-year relationship with this wonderful University and College, beginning in early 1990s as a bachelor of science student at Chancellor College before becoming a medical student at College of Medicine, then as a proud alumna, thereafter a doctoral student under joint-supervision from the College and University of Tampere with research implemented in Lungwena, later as a postdoctoral research fellow leading a Maternal, Newborn and Child Health studies in Mangochi and finally joining as a member of the faculty in 2012 deployed to Lilongwe Campus where I was appointed the Coordinator for the Department of Public Health. At the start of School in 2014, I was elected Deputy Dean of the School – the College’s young and most promising faculty under its first dean - Professor Kamija Phiri, and now as Dean from 2018 – to continue steering this school to new and higher attainments. My personal research interests are largely in nutritional related matters and interactions; and I have enjoyed taking huge responsibility of advising the Government and its partners through accepting invitation to serve in technical working groups (TWGs) and nutrition policy advisory boards. During my life at the College, led by our prominent Professors in the School and leadership of the College from Professors Dalenburg, Chiphangwi, Broadhead and Maleta and Dr Mipando, I have witnessed the transformative impact which this institution can have on social wellbeing, nutrition and health of communities through our education of students, our research activities and our outreach activities towards the health system and communities. We are a community of individuals who bring together expertise from a wide variety of arenas through our three departments and specialities: statistics, epidemiology, social sciences, ethics and psychology, within the school and interaction with other faculties within College and beyond, and research centres: MAC, MLW, ACEPHEM, THRU, CEBESA, CRH and MEURU, to produce new knowledge, powerful ideas, and practical solutions to major public health challenges. Our work improves the health and transforms the lives of people in Malawi and beyond, informing and influencing everything from individual habits and their environments to health care systems, government policies and contributing to Health Sector Strategic Plan II, Malawi Growth Development Strategy III, Sustainable Development Goals and Africa Agenda 2063. In the past few decade advances in knowledge about how best to protect the public’s health helped increase the average life expectancy in Malawi. Recently, this has been attained through our fight against malaria, reduction in undernutrition and increase of survival of people living with HIV/AIDS but today, our progress is threatened by increasing threats from non-communicable diseases, increase in overnutrition and injuries from road traffic accidents and workplace. Our global health interests also demand that we pay attention to old pandemics such as TB that is presenting with drug resistance and HIV/AIDS, and new pandemics like Ebola and Zika; pollution and climate change that endanger our health and our planet; increasing danger from drug resistance coupled with infiltration of counterfeit drugs; social forces including poverty, discrimination, and humanitarian crises that adversely affect well-being; and failing health systems that make it difficult for people to receive vital preventive care, medical treatments and rehabilitation services they need at public cost. This is a crucial moment for public health in Malawi, and we at School of Public Health and Family Medicine have an imperative role to both serve and lead in innovative solutions. Our teaching needs to be innovative - promoting integration of district health service providers that will promote access of all health care services and acceptability of new approaches. Our research needs to focus on discovering relevant knowledge and local solution. Our outreach activities needs to support all public health stakeholders with credibility. Lastly, I look forward to working together with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends to harness the energy and dedication that drives every member of our School. Together we will propel the School’s collective work to confront, understand and solve the major public health challenges we all face.
Available for Supervision: Yes

Dr John Phuka

deanpublichealth@medcol.mw

School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Malawi, College of Medicine, Private Bag 360, Chichiri, Blantyre, Malawi