Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Genesis Samonte

The Philippines

MS '14

A "disease detective" seeks public health and health economics training

Genesis Samonte, epidemiologist, aims to significantly impact people in her native Philippines.

From the 12th most populated country in the world, an archipelago in the Western Pacific Ocean, Genesis Samonte, MD, googled graduate programs in health.  She wanted a graduate school that  combined public health and health economics in one program and where she’d only have to be gone from the Philippines for one academic year. Those criteria yielded the Heller School’s MS in International Health Policy and Management.

“Only a few graduate programs met my requirements,” she says just two months after arriving at Heller. But in those two months, Samonte says, “my mind has been opened up to viable options, both theoretical and skill-based, that I hadn’t previously considered in dealing with health issues.  I’ve had many ‘aha’ moments in my classes.  Even if I had to leave school at this moment, I would have already learned so much.”

Dr. Samonte works at the Department of Health in the Philippines and has an epidemiology background. She describes herself as a disease detective, and says, "Think of the movie 'Contagion.'" 

As head of the HIV/AIDS/STI surveillance and strategic information unit at the National Epidemiology Center, she says that epidemiological data is not enough to guide policies and programs.”      

While working at the Department of Health as an experienced epidemiologist, Samonte realized she could use additional training in management, health systems and cost effectiveness. “I wanted my technical knowledge and skills to reach the next level so I could significantly impact the people in my country and the next generation.”

Genesis praises the Heller admissions team for a smooth application process and success at helping her receive scholarship aid to make her schooling possible. She is a World Bank Scholar in addition to receiving a Heller scholarship.

Although she is taking 22 credits, she wishes she could take more. “The courses are so interesting, I wish I could clone myself,” she says.

“The challenge is just about right for me.  And I am already able to apply what I am learning to what I have been doing at DOH.  I chose the right school,” she says.

She cautions prospective students to know why they want to study in a graduate program. “Heller is a cutting-edge school with a development perspective.  It’s a special community united by the desire to help and serve,” Samonte says. “Students who are passionate about serving and making a difference will enjoy Heller. Here we are honed to be able to do that and more,” she says.

Samonte has also learned the power of knowing about the health systems in over 25 countries her classmates represent. The Heller community is so diverse but still warm and personal, she says.  “Your opinion is valued; you are not just a number.”   

The fact that faculty are practitioners as well as academics impressed Samonte as well. “The support and mentoring they provide is beyond my expectations.”

Her dream, becoming a reality at Heller, is to contribute to better health outcomes of Filipinos by creating significant and sustainable improvements at the Department of Health with an appreciation of the global health field.

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