Coming from the University of Malaya, Dr. Kavitha Agamutu will be joining the Men’s Health Research team as an intern for the month of July. Working in the Malaysian Ministry of Health, Dr. Agamutu is currently a DrPH candidate with a focus on gender and men’s health. Prior to her arrival, I chatted with Dr. Agamutu about her life, in and out of the research world, and her upcoming visit to MHR.

ER: Hi Kavitha! To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

KA: I was born in the city of Kuala Lumpur on May 16th, 1983. As both my parents graduated from and worked with the University of Malaya (UM), I grew up in Kuala Lumpur as well and continue now to study at UM. I come from a small family of 4 and have one elder brother. My father is a Professor at the Faculty of Science specializing in Environment and Waste Management, while my mother was in the administrative side as an Assistant Registrar and after retirement has moved to the private education sector. My husband is a Marine Engineer and we have been married for 4 years now though we first met in high school!

ER: That’s awesome! And what about your academic background? Where did you go to school and what did you study?

KA: I received both primary and secondary education from public schools in Malaysia. After completing Form 6 STPM exam, which is the equivalent of A levels, I went on to pursue my MBBS degree through a twinning program which brought me to India for the first two and a half years and the final twoand a half years were completed in the state of Malacca, Malaysia. I received my MBBS degree from Manipal University, India in the year 2008. I have worked with the Malaysian Ministry of Health since 2009. I started my masters in 2017 and last year I graduated from University of Malaya with my Master of Public Health degree. Currently I am continuing with the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree currently at University of Malaya.

ER: Congratulations on your recent graduation! Can you tell me a bit about your research interests and how have they evolved throughout your career and schooling?

KA: My research interests have always been towards family health in general since I started working in the Family Health Development Division of the Ministry of health in 2015. After beginning my Masters course, I initially researched in the field of environmental health. Subsequently, I started to consider men’s health as a research focus mainly due to my two years of working in the Adult Health Sector which covered Men’s health. Men’s Health in Malaysia is still a very new and upcoming concept which is slowly but surely gaining importance. In addition to this, I had the pleasure of working with Prof. Ng Chirk Jenn of University Malaya, and his team of colleagues who are pioneer researchers in Men’s Health in Malaysia and this opportunity caused my interest in men’s health to peak.

ER: Such an interesting path! So, what prompted you to choose to intern at MHR?

KA: The Professional Internship is a course requirement and each student is free to go to any part of the world to intern with the home supervisor’s agreement, at any accepting facility that is related to the student’s research field. For me, after discussion with my home supervisors, the UBC MHR program seemed a perfect place to intern and to learn how men’s health became a focus in Canada and how policies and activities were planned and implemented. In addition to this, the HeadsUpGuys website addressing male mental health issues is close to my current research project in which I would like to create a similar web-based intervention to address male depression back home in Malaysia.

ER: That is great! What are you looking forward to working on here at MHR?

KA: I will be attached to MHR for 1 month during which I hope to learn about the development and implementation of men’s health policies and projects; the process and efforts involved in the development of the HeadsUpGuys website and also other men’s health interventions; I also would like to study the working relationships involved in propelling men’s health forward; and to assist in any way I can, in ongoing studies.

ER: Where do you think this research will take you and what are you planning on doing after this?

KA: My current research project looking into male depression and eventually other mental health issues among men will not end with my graduation with DrPH, but rather it is the stepping stone for further studies and development of more focused interventions to address various health issue among men in Malaysia and perhaps even globally. After the completion of my DrPH, I hope to continue to research related fields of male mental health and continue to bring about effective change.

ER: That is great – so now I am going to switch gears a bit! What are your passions outside research?

KA: Outside of research, I love to read, cook, bake and practice yoga. I also LOVE travelling, be it within Malaysia or around the world.

ER: And a fun fact about yourself?

KA: I am a classical Indian dancer – I trained from 1988 - 2003.

ER: Wow! That is amazing! And to finish up, is there anything else you would like to add about yourself, or your research?

KA: I am extremely grateful to Prof John Oliffe and his team for accepting me to intern with the MHR, which I know to be an opportunity of a lifetime. I am also grateful to my supervisors, the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine of UM, my family and my husband for their unending support and encouragement. I am certain that I will gain a lot from this internship that will benefit not just my studies, but will eventually also benefit my home university and country.

Welcome Kavitha!