“The Mosaic 2.0 scholarship has made my PhD possible”
Moska Hellamand is conducting PhD research on access to medicines in low and middle income countries. She owes her PhD position to a grant from the Mosaic 2.0 programme.
During my Master's in Drug Innovation at Utrecht University I developed a keen interest in government policies. From my background and my political views, I consider equal access to healthcare worldwide to be essential. There is still so much work to do in this regard, as demonstrated only recently during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After graduating, I worked for the Access to Medicine Foundation, a non-profit organisation where I carried out research on the pharmaceutical industry. As I was eager to further develop my research skills, a PhD was an obvious route for me to take. I also wanted to delve deeper into the theme of accessibility, so I got into contact again with my supervisors at the university. There were no PhD positions available at the time for that theme, which is why I decided to apply for a scholarship under the Mosaic 2.0 programme. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I wanted to try all the same. That scholarship is a huge opportunity for me.
As I was eager to further develop my research skills, a PhD was an obvious route for me to take.
The experience I gained with the Access to Medicine Foundation is quite useful for my PhD research. It has given me a better understanding of the world of the various stakeholders, and it has also taught me how to write and present my findings in an accessible manner. That's really a great advantage; after all, I also want my parents to understand what my research is about.
And although I've only just begun my PhD research, I already have ideas on what field I'd like to focus on in the future. I can see myself working in global health also in the future, possibly with the World Health Organisation, but I think I could also make a valuable contribution working for the government.
Our family fled to the Netherlands when I was five years old. In Afghanistan my parents both worked as medical doctors, but their diplomas weren't recognised in the Netherlands. And even though they were unable to practice their profession in this country, medicine was a frequent topic of discussion at the kitchen table. For them it was very important that my sister, my brother and myself found our way in the future and they always encouraged me to go to university and realise my ambitions.
Initially we lived in a small village in the province of Zeeland with hardly any non-Dutch residents, except ourselves. When I was ten we moved to Veenendaal, where cultural diversity was concentrated in a few neighbourhoods. The primary school I went to was definitely not diverse. Secondary school in Ede was a better environment for my development, because I was able to attend bilingual grammar school and my classmates were eager to learn, like me. Even so, it was only at university that I found myself in a more diverse environment. I did the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, an English-taught Bachelor's programme that attracts students from all over the world. This was the first time I was the one who explained to others how things work in the Netherlands.
Even so, it was only at university that I found myself in a more diverse environment.
Although strictly speaking I'm not a first-generation student, I did encounter many of the same obstacles. Other students had family, friends and acquaintances who told them how the Netherlands works and where to go to get ahead. My parents are both highly educated, but they were not familiar with the Dutch education system and didn't have any kind of network. As a result, I always felt I was several steps behind and had to start all from scratch. But that didn't hold me back, on the contrary. My parents always told us that with our background, we had to work twice as hard as anybody else - which is what I did.
My advice for people from a comparable background who are also considering a PhD is this: just try it. Check out the possibilities, think carefully about what you want to achieve and then go for it.