TISSNET 2017: MPH in Health Policy, Economics and Finance

Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) conducted its National Eligibility Test (TISSNET) for admission to Post Graduate courses on January 7, 2017. TISS is an institute of excellence known for its curriculum and application of knowledge towards creating a just society.

PaGaLGuY spoke to a student of TISS, Soumitra Joshi to know his experience. Soumitra is currently pursuing his M.A. of Public Health (MPH) in Health Policy, Economics and Finance (2016-18). Soumitra got 71 percentile and was rank 1 in merit list for his course.   MPH is a two year programme which enables students to develop a sound knowledge base and professional skills in the health sector. The programme covers subjects like critical policy analysis, financial analysis, health economics and health care planning.  

1) Tell us about yourself. Why did you choose MPH?
 I have done my Bachelors as well as Masters in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune. I was preparing for Civil Services. For two consecutive attempts, I couldn’t clear prelims despite studying well. Because of this I had to think about plan-B. Many people choose state services, Bank PO etc other competitive as their plan B, but I was quite wary about it. I wanted something in which I would be doing dynamic work and which would open flood gates of opportunities in the future. I was searching for courses at various universities when I came across the course, ‘Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Policy, Economics and Finance’. This course is developed by the London School of Economics and to apply for this course, you need 4 years graduation or Master’s degree in any subject. After completing the degree, you get a chance to work with various Health Ministries and Health programmes. I found all this to be to be a logical corollary of what I have done till date (Masters in Economics and civil service preparation).

2) What does a typical day in the life of a MPH student look like?

Well, it’s not that fascinating a story to tell. Every day we have classes from 9am to 6pm, and after that you have to do assignments. So basically, your day is quite busy but it doesn’t mean you don’t get time to do other things. The TISS campus is very vibrant and there are people from diverse backgrounds. You will interact with them during Foundation courses and / or over a dinner table. Personally, I feel these interactions are more thought-provoking and perception-building than the compulsory, boring lectures. So overall, it is a romantic campus (Well I should not get into the explanation of it to maintain decorum of article! That is something to be experienced).

3) How did you prepare for the Pre-Interview Test (PIT)? (Did you have GD?)

We didn’t have a GD, we had essay. I kept track of important current issues. I understood them and then built my own thoughts on it. For me, this was not the difficult part as I was preparing for civil services, but I will suggest aspirants read at least 5-8 good articles on every current topic. Try writing at least 8-10 essays before you appear for your PIT.
 While writing the essay, I kept everything sharp, precise and focused. It turned out really well. My essay topic was: ‘Odd even car policy of Delhi government’ and I scored 37/50.

4) Any tips about appearing for TISS interview?

I will say just be yourself. Don’t try to bluff; be honest. Try to keep yourself calm.

I will share what happened at my personal interview.

It was March 15, 2016. 11.10 am. I was third candidate to be interviewed.

The panel consisted of three members (Let’s call them M1, M2, M3. Among those 3, 1 was lady. Let’s call her M3)

Me: May I come in Sir?

Panel: Yes, yes please come in and have a seat.

Me: Good morning Ma’am, Good morning sir.

M3: (Checking my detailed application form) Soumitra, you have already done your Masters in Economics, why do you want to apply again?

Me: My masters was not really masters, my syllabus was really lame, I would give you an example – in Growth and Development paper they used to ask question like, ‘Write about the role of Government in growth and development’.

M3: Then you should have applied to some good university!

Me: I applied but couldn’t clear.

M3: Hmm!

M1: You have done Economics. Tell us something about it. What part do you like in Economics?

Me: Sir, recently the budget has come out, so Monetary Policy and Fiscal Policy are in the news.

M1: OK! Tell me, what is inflation.

Me: I started explaining the definition – CPI (Consumer price index), WPI (Whole-sale price index) and so on.

M1: Don’t give me the technical definition! Now, tell me what is Fiscal Deficit.

Me: If you have Rs 100 in your pocket, you should not spend more than that. However, the government has to spend more than what they have for social welfare. So, what you spend more than what you have, is Fiscal deficit. There are two types in it, Revenue and Capital. If you are spending this ‘extra’ money on capital, then its fine, but if you are spending on Revenue, it is not.

M1: (Seemed satisfied). How will you see the relation between Health and Economics.

Me: (smiling to the panel) Sir, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

M1: What is the relation?

Me: Sir, they are under the World Trade Organization. They deal will compulsory licensing of ‘Life-saving drugs’, which are important for developing countries like India. The whole pharmaceutical economics and politics is involved in it.

M1: Do you know what the TRIPS policy is on ‘non-life saving drugs’?

Me: Sorry sir, I don’t know.

M2: What are the pressing health issues in front of India?

Me: Sir, we can’t say there is one issue. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) survey has been published, according to which, developed states face lifestyle-related diseases and underdeveloped states face other problems like Malnutrition.

M2: What is the number of this NFHS survey?

Me: Am not sure, but I guess it is 3. (I checked after coming out, it was 4)

M1: So what you did you do in your gap year after graduation?

Me: I was preparing for civil services.

M1: How will you prepare here? We will keep you busy in lectures and assignments.

Me: Sir, It’s a long term plan. I will appear after completing my Masters here.

M1: OK. What is there in the budget for health?

Me: Sir, there is provision for diagnosis centre. (I paused for a while, realising something went wrong)

M1: Do you mean Dialysis centre?

Me: Yes sir, sorry sir.

M1: It’s ok. Continue.

Me: Sir, there is a provision for a dialysis centre but there are only 1,000 nephrologists in India. How they will be able to run these centres with such a low number of nephrologists!

M1: True. Any scheme in the budget?

Me: Yes sir, Health through insurance, sir?

M2: Why do we need insurance for health?

Me: Sir, because for people below the poverty line, health expenses are really high. They work hard to earn money to come above the poverty line, and then, one fine day, there is an illness and because of the expense of treatment, they once again go below the poverty line. And health is related to many other issues such as climate change, politics, etc so all these issues become complex.

M3: (Her eyes literally sparked after hearing the word ‘Climate change’! Up to this moment, she had been observing me without asking a question). How does climate change affects health?

Me: Ma’am, pollution. Then cancer caused by ozone depletion.

 M3: What is climate change, and why does it happen?

 Me: (I started explaining ‘Permafrost’, ‘Ozone layer depletion’. Then said how humans are responsible for climate change.

M3: Wait! Do you know what is El Niño  and La Niña?

Me: (Yeh hui na baat) Yes ma’am, they are both ocean currents near Peru. They have an effect on the monsoons. This year is a Al Niño year, so there was drought in India.

M3: Very good. Remember when you say climate change you should first talk about El Niño and La Niña .

Me: Yes Ma’am.

Panel: Ok, thank you Soumitra.

Me: Thank you sir and Ma’am.

I scored 65/75 in my interview.

PaGaLGuY wishes all TISS aspirants all the best!