Zhomart Orman on health, healthcare system and PhD

Zhomart Orman on health, healthcare system and PhD

Interview with Zhomart Orman on PhD and healthcare system in Australia


My name is Zhomart Orman and I am researching field of medicine as a doctoral researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. In 2009, I graduated from Kazakh National Medical University and became a doctor. In 2012, I obtained a masters degree in healthcare discipline from Heidelberg University, Germany. My professional specialisation includes wide range of jobs ranging from surgery, tackling population’s health issues and coordinating government’s programmes in healthcare and implementation of global projects such as Sustainable Development Goals.


Number of factors have shaped my choice to become a doctor. Since childhood I have been fond of animals and had quite of them at home including dogs, pigeons, parrots, rabbits. I even domesticated wild creatures such as a gopher and wild pigeons (giggling). Studying and observing animals’ lives has fascinated me: their eating habits, reproduction and cubs’ growth. Biology was my favourite subject at school where I was studying creatures’ organs and was curious to look at the way pigeon’s heart beat. Gradually my interest shifted to a human being’s organism and I became a member of an anatomy society at medical academy.
The second factor that influenced my choice of medicine is the fact that both of my parents were doctors. I come from a dynasty consisting of doctors: surgeons, paediatricians, sanitary and military doctors, as well as professors, scientists and scholars. Home library consisting predominantly of books on medicine and talking about medicine at family gatherings only fuelled my interest to that field, which made me make up my mind to be a surgeon even before going to school.


Science is the foundation of progress: it answers the questions, provides evidence for decision making and helps to save the resources. Unfortunately, most of the decisions made in Kazakhstan are not based on scientific evidence but rather built on so called “experts’” opinions, who happen to be every second among people. For example, recently local municipality in a certain oblast purchased robot surgeon for more than milliard tenge. I am very sceptical about relevance of such expenses taking into account that mortality rate of tuberculoses and heart attack cases are twice as high compared to other similar regions.
As part of a PhD programme, I study effectiveness of illness management programmes among patients who experienced stroke. Main goal of me doing a PhD is to develop analytical and research skills: being able to independently conduct large scale studies, to create scientific collaborations. The reason I chose foreign university for my studies is because Western countries have much more scientific potential than Kazakhstan. According to the data provided by the UNESCO, development of science is way behind in Central Asian countries even compared to some poor regions of South Asia and Africa.


First of all, Australia was number one choice for me to apply for a PhD programme because science and education there is developed according to a high standard. Expenses spent from GDP on science exceeds in Australia than that of the United Kingdom and Canada. Number of international students per capita of population is on first place in the world, which indicates popularity of Australian higher education.
Secondly, I was impressed by scientific project and potential of a professor at Monash University in Melbourne.
Thirdly, when I was searching for location of study, Melbourne has been listed as the most comfortable city for living the last seven years. It seems as conveniency in daily life would positively contribute to research work, which usually lasts few years far away from home country.
Moreover, having already had an experience of living in the United States of America and Europe, it was interesting to explore different continent.
Lastly, Australia reminds me of Kazakhstan: vast territory, small population, rich in natural resources, multi ethnical.


Process of applying for a PhD programme in Australia is the same as in the United Kingdom: applicant choses university, supervisor(s) and research interest. If supervisor approves academic capacity of an applicant, university accepts his application and necessary documents. After enrolment, doctoral student takes essential courses and begins his research work. Every year a doctoral researcher presents his/her research work in front of an independent expertise committee, in other words defends his/her conducted work through presentations and publications. Towards the end of a PhD programme, a student submits a complete thesis and waits for final decision of a committee.
In contrast, in the United States of America, an applicant choses university and submits documents straightaway. In first two years a doctoral student is obliged to take courses and pass exams. Only after that he/she can chose a supervisor and starts working on a thesis. In case of failing the exams, only a masters degree is obtained.
Thanks to international scholarship programme Bolashak, my country has granted me a second opportunity to upgrade my qualification. It is not hard to be accepted to university if you fulfil all the requirements. Universities in Australia give funding to PhD students with publications in high impact journals.


Australia has universal healthcare system called Medicare, which includes all the essential medical assistance and prescriptions. System covers main health expenses but requires monthly contribution from each person’s pocket. Sick patient first goes to a general practitioner (GP), which might take considerable time to be accepted. Medical insurance might cover visit of family doctor, but patients partially pay for prescriptions, assistance of special doctors and diagnostics. There is a separate insurance for ambulance, dental services and physiotherapy. Vulnerable groups of population have medical expenses subsidised by the government, while affluent people usually have insurance which includes assistance at private clinics. Duties are strictly divided among the government and states. Medical workers and doctors are ensured from medical mistakes and comprise middle and higher class with the highest salary level. Doctors with narrow specialty are paid higher than head of state and family doctors receive higher wage than ministers and parliament members. That is a difference of Australian healthcare system in a nutshell. .


In terms of cases of infections and death caused by COVID-19, Australia has demonstrated one of the best results in tackling the pandemic. Despite the fact the situation differs from state to state, the government’s response to the problem is impressive: large scale testing for free, tracing people in contact, isolation of the contacted, limiting population mobility and the government’s paying wages. Melbourne, home for fifth part of whole population, experienced the toughest and longest quarantine measures, which lasted 111 days and one could cleave the house for only four reasons. The situation has been improving and quarantine measures is relaxed now.


Eating habits and physical activity depends on people’s knowledge about risk factors, which then is influenced by education and social-economic status. Education is accessible to everyone in Australia and there is an option of loans to study in universities for local people. PhD is out of charge for citizens. Minimal wage is one for the highest in the world after Luxembourg and Switzerland. Interesting fact, the price of local cigarette package is the most expensive in the world. Parks and play grounds are very widespread in the country. Quality of water is good and drinkable almost everywhere including at homes, tube stations and on the beaches. In terms of quality of the air, thermal power plants are located outside of cities in Australia while they are situated inside the urban areas in Kazakhstan. Proportion of pocket money to healthcare expenses is 36 per cent in Kazakhstan compared to as twice as lower in Australia. Despite the fact both countries have similar wealth in natural resources, Kazakhstan has high level of corruption that prevents it from benefiting from rich potential. Kazakhstan’s corruption ranking is lower than that of Zimbabwe and Mongolia. If Kazakhstan tackles corruption, not only longevity would increase but healthy life expectancy would go up as well, which by the way comprises only 54 years for men in Kazakhstan. I would like to point out that when I was working in the Ministry of Health, it was responsible for the life expectancy of population, which is incorrect distribution of responsibilities. Life expectancy is the result of joint work of all governmental bodies, not only of one institution.


The hardest thing about staying healthy is following the rules of healthy lifestyle, which are widely known. The main factor of good health is mental-spiritual well being, keeping positive attitude, ability to control stress, feeling useful to your surrounding and close ones. For instance, some find it in meditation, others in religion.
I will list the main principles of staying healthy.
Firstly, it is better for health to sleep sufficient amount of time and go to bed and wake up the same time daily. I advise to consider going to bed shortly after sunset and waking up with sunrise. Having complete darkness while falling asleep and getting up without an alarm clock would be beneficial for well being as well.
Secondly, it would be good health wise to drink water and leaf tea before main courses of meal. One should limit himself/herself to one cup of coffee and half glass of fresh juice per day.
Thirdly, moving is the key. If your work is desk based, try to do your job while standing up shortly. Physical activity few times a week is advised, be it dancing, sports or gym. Home activity such as cleaning and dishwashing is considered as a good alternative to sports. I do not recommend Ironman and MMA.
Fourthly, I strongly advise to limit intake of sugar (sweets), confectionery (trans fat) and fast food to once in 4-6 months. They might be replaced with organic honey, black chocolate with high percentage of cocoa. Try decreasing amount of salt as well.
Fifth advise is to eat more nuts, fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Strawberries, blueberries and other berries are rich in vitamins.
Sixth principle of keeping health in shape would be keeping meat and dietary products in daily food rations. It has been advised by some nutriotionests to exclude meat, but one should know that it is source of certain type of amino acids, which can be found in meat only. I advise to stop eating highly processed meat such as sausages. One should consume variety of meat: turkey, fish, chicken and red meat containing less than 10 per cent of fat.
Seventh advise is to engage in intellectual activities such as reading academic publications and books, writing, learning new languages, playing musical instruments.
Moreover, one of the important keys to good health is regular sex at least once a week.
Furthermore, another healthy habit is to stay outdoors as much as possible and breath fresh air. The best locations for it are further away from transport ways, in parks, beaches, and mountains.
Last but not least, key to preventing diseases is to have annual check up of health. At least going through minimum analysis such as electrocardiogram, chest x ray, ultrasound test of abdominal cavity organs, general analysis of blood, minerals, urine and faeces, blood presssure and eyesight testing, as well as having endoscope of gastrointestinal tract and MRT of brain once every 3-5 years would be beneficial.
Everything you do and engage in should bring you joy and happiness. You can have a tan of coke or glass of wine if it makes you happy, but not more thank twice a month. One should keep in mind that 95 per cent of food intake should be useful and organic.

Stay healthy and come to study to Australia!

*text has been translated from the original Russian

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