Earning an MPH in Service of Her Patients

Dr. Hanady Daas | Photo provided by Beaumont Health

Hanady Daas

Master’s Student, Online Population and Health Sciences Degree Program, Infectious Disease Consultant and Medical Director for Infection Prevention and Epidemiology at Beaumont Dearborn at Beaumont Hospital | Photo provided by Beaumont Health

Hanady Daas established her career as an infectious disease physician over the last 18 years. Emigrating from Jordan to pursue training in internal medicine and infectious diseases, she eventually worked her way up to becoming a medical director at Beaumont Hospital, all while raising a family. But she's not done growing and building her expertise. In the midst of a pandemic and the strain on physicians, her new pursuit is especially timely. In the following, Hanady explains why continuing her education is an important part of becoming the best physician she can be.

It’s been 24 years of learning. I think you mature along a journey like that.

In the middle of a busy career as a physician, you chose to pursue your MPH. What motivated you to return to school?

Mine has already been a long journey. I graduated from medical school in 2002, so that’s about 18 years plus six years in medical school. So far, it’s been 24 years of learning. I think you mature along a journey like that.

You realize that as a physician, you cannot really be disconnected from the other services that can eventually influence the outcome of your patient. You really have to be engaged in terms of their social situation. For example, the planning for discharging a patient involves determining the social environment and the ability to maintain health appointments, dispense prescriptions, so all of those kind of come back at you, it keeps coming back to you as a physician.

When I went into my infectious disease fellowship I was exposed to populations that have specific vulnerabilities, like the HIV population, and patients who have long-term wounds, many who are elderly or paralized -- they have very poor outcomes that you’re exposed to day after day, so there's more of a sense of urgency to understand what's going on with your patient, in order to help serve your purpose as an effective physician, in order to be a better person.

How does the online program’s focus on population health factor into your current work?

Studying population health and health policy made a lot of sense because as an infectious disease doctor who deals with infections in certain populations managing pregnancy, HIV, and patients on hemodialysis, it seemed right to pursue a degree that will allow me to participate in policy-making and healthcare decision-making based on an informed systematic approach. Rather than reviewing medical literature and making medical recommendations, I wanted to also make recommendations that would be effective and sustainable, and that is more in the population health and health policy domains. Knowing that the program would also include things like epidemiology, introductions to environmental exposures, industrial hygiene - which is also part of what I currently do - and learnings about nutrition and implications of nutritional factors on specific populations, all those different domains can enable me to become a better physician in my role. 

The role of infection prevention and epidemiology in the program added another layer to my motivation. Understanding how various patient factors interact, seeing the bigger picture and the constraints of the physician-patient relationship, it opens up more ideas to take into consideration when trying to improve the health of a large population, specifically those who are being underserved by our healthcare system. You can't really do that with medical knowledge alone, it requires different insights such as understanding population health, how to plan a successful population health program, how to evaluate it, and how to execute a plan like that to get best results. 

I'm not a decision-maker for the public health in general, but for the particular areas that I am making decisions, it made a lot of sense to pursue a degree in public health because of that.

Definitely as a woman, you have to be much more persuasive to get things done.

Have there been any obstacles that you’ve overcome that motivate you to continue to better yourself as a physician? 

Of course, there are things that are related to me being a female, and also being an immigrant in this country that were challenging. The first obstacle was simply getting here. The visa process took such a long time, and by the time it was approved, I had missed almost two whole months of my training program. We decided to avoid traveling during that time to avoid similar delays with visa approvals, which would have meant we couldn’t return to work again quickly. Not being with our families made it a lot more stressful in the beginning. But, my story is a relatively successful one compared to the difficulties that other immigrants from different education levels and different social status have faced.

There were also some difficulties that I faced when trying to establish my own practice and establishing myself as a leader - as a physician who is in a decision-making position. Definitely as a woman, you have to be much more persuasive to get things done. You have to communicate more, you have to showcase your background and your baseline knowledge, and you have to prove yourself every day.

I was also married and I had children during my training program. However, it was more practical to limit my time off to a minimum and graduate on time. Plus, being on a visa, you have a deadline to meet for your schooling in order to fulfill your visa. So, I couldn't take any time off. I had to rely a lot on long hours of child care, and pretty much with no family around. 

In the US, the role of a doctor is more defined and specialized. It was very different from the traditional role of a doctor that I was used to in Jordan. But, the people who trained me were very supportive, and to this day, I really appreciate their help and guidance and advocating for me when I needed their advocacy and their recommendations. 

We both realized that we are coming to a crisis situation, and in a crisis you can’t really complain, you can't stop and say, “what about me? what about my family?"

As an infectious disease physician, the current pandemic has probably ignited a number of new daily challenges. Can you share how the pandemic has impacted your work and your life?

My husband and I are both physicians, and early on in the pandemic we both realized that we are coming to a crisis situation. In a crisis you can’t really complain, you can't stop and say, “What about me? What about my family?”, that's not going to work. So, we pretty much sat down with the whole family and we made our plan. We made it very clear that we are in a crisis and we have to work and we have a job to do. 

It was a lot in the beginning, especially having to make a lot of recommendations that were changing sometimes day-by-day or even by the hour, and we have to get the information out as quickly as possible. For me and a lot of people in my team, it’s been about protecting our staff, protecting our patients, and helping people.

We've seen people who die within hours, and so it was really important that if any solution comes out, we should really get it out fast, in an effective way, and make sure it's implemented the right way. There’s been a lot of miseducation, misinterpretation, misinformation, and our job is to constantly screen all the data, put reports together that make sense to everyone, send it out and communicate with people correctly and knowledgeably, but also acknowledging the fact that things are changing. It’s been like facing multiple challenges, not just as a medical professional, but also on a social level, on family level, and a personal level.

Working in a pandemic, managing a family, managing your own personal feelings, what do you do to feel joy when you’re feeling stressed by all of that responsibility?

I have three kids and I enjoy just sitting with them, talking to them, spending time with them. They make me laugh. I also read a lot. It’s one of the things that de-stresses me. When I'm stressed out I just grab my favorite novel and I sit down and I live the world of the characters. I'm very good at that, my husband will tell you that my personality changes according to the book I'm reading. It is one of the things that stayed with me since childhood, and it’s allowed me to sort of escape any situation and to be somewhere else for a while. 

After graduating with your MPH, what will you do? How will your work change?

I think I'm in a role right now that the MPH experience would be perfect for. I plan to continue with my role in my hospital as an Infection Prevention Epidemiology director, and my role as an infectious disease doctor. But I will be more mindful, I will have different perspectives, and I think I will be more effective as a decision maker and policy maker, and that's really my goal.