Our People: Munguntsetseg Khuyag-Ochir
Munguntsetseg Khuyag-Ochir traveled around the world to keep children healthy.
Name: Munguntsetseg Khuyag-Ochir — Munguu for short!
Position: Master of Public Health (MPH) graduate student, Department of Maternal and Child Health
Time at the Gillings School: I started classes in August of this year.
What I do at UNC Gillings (and why I love it): Right now, I’m taking courses for the MPH Core as well as the class “Global Foundations in Maternal and Child Health” with Dr. Kavita Singh Ongechi. I absolutely love that class!
When I moved here in August, it was very overwhelming. I am the only person from Mongolia studying at UNC-Chapel Hill, and I came to the country alone in order to secure housing before bringing my young children to join me. I was feeling very homesick, but then a second-year student from my program invited me to live with her while I made arrangements. I stayed with her for a month and met other local friends, and now I feel much more at home. It also helps that my family is here now, and my husband is so supportive. (He always says, “Don’t worry about the housework; you are studying to save lives!”) But from the beginning, the Gillings School community offered me so much support as an international student.
I’m originally from: Mongolia. Until August, I lived with my husband and our three children — ages two, five and seven — in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. I came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar, which means I have a duty to engage in academic and cultural exchange with people I meet here.
When I started looking for public health schools in the U.S., I had no idea where to begin. A Fulbright alumnus advised me to look at the posted rankings, and I saw that Gillings was ranked No. 2 of all schools of public health in the country and had a maternal and child health program with a global focus. That’s exactly what I wanted. I also remember seeing a photo on the School’s website of how beautiful the trees were in autumn, and that convinced me – I knew my family could live here!
The pivotal moment that led me to public health: happened while I was working as a medical doctor. I specialize in pediatrics and neonatology. I love that work, because I can cure and help children, but I was becoming more and more aware of how many childhood illnesses in Mongolia are preventable. I realized that I wanted to get the training to help build a healthier environment and lifestyle for the people of my country so kids don’t get sick in the first place.
My favorite things: are children and books. I love all children – not just mine! – and, even beyond being a mother or a pediatrician, I want to see them thrive in every way possible. My second favorite thing is books. My family owns a bookstore in Ulaanbaatar and I grew up surrounded by books; they are still my favorite way to escape for a bit. I especially like biographies, because I want to know how other people live so I can become inspired by their journeys.
The thing I’m most excited about in the next year: is being incredibly productive! I want to research all kinds of public health problems so that, when I go home in two years, I will be empowered to share knowledge with others and make a difference. I also want to use all of the many resources for international students, make friends with faculty and other students, explore Chapel Hill with my family and truly become a Tar Heel. I heard about the University celebrating its 225th birthday recently, and I had to compare that to the 80-year history of the university where I studied in Mongolia. It makes me very proud to study at UNC.
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