How far have you traveled to learn about SAS? Five hundred miles, 1,000 miles? Some of you may have even traveled across the United States for training. Enkhjin Bavuu, who currently works in Mongolia to prevent and control HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, traveled from Mongolia to New York for his introduction to SAS.
Bavuu entered the University at Albany School of Public Health (UASPH) in 2000 to receive a master's of public health (MPH). "SAS was necessary for completing my home assignments in the statistics class that I took during the first semester of my MPH program. At that time, I had to learn everything by myself. I copied codes from other students who were taking a SAS class," explains Bavuu.
Bavuu's first and only SAS instructor at UASPH was Mike Zdeb. "We get a number of foreign students who come here to get an MPH with the aim of going back to their country and using their new skills to improve the health among their population," notes Zdeb. "Dr. Bavuu was funded by the Soros Foundation to come here, live, take courses and participate in internships."
"Dr. Bavuu's computer experience prior to his work at UASPH consisted of using Microsoft Office," states Zdeb. Most MPH students take a three-credit SAS class taught by Zdeb. Some follow it with a one-credit course. Bavuu took both. He also had internships that allowed him to use his newly acquired SAS skills.
One of Bavuu's internships was a study of new and emerging infections at the New York State Department of Health. He worked on surveillance data of foodborne infections. "After completing my studies at UASPH, I participated in optional practical training at the state health department where I gathered data on environmental pollution and its related health hazards from waste sites in upstate New York," notes Bavuu.
Bavuu continued to use his SAS skills beyond his internships. He landed a job with the Rhode Island Department of Health as a data manager/epidemiologist for the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. "During my internships and employment, I had an opportunity to use SAS. I enjoyed my work with SAS software and the endless possibilities that it offers to its users."
Using SAS in several different situations increased Bavuu's desire for more knowledge. He became a SAS Certified Professional in 2002. He explains his motivation to become certified: "My main reason for taking the certification exam was to prove to myself that I knew SAS well enough to pass the test. And I also believe that SAS certification will help me obtain a job in the U.S. or other countries where SAS is widely used."
Since his return to Mongolia in 2003, Bavuu has not had the opportunity to use SAS. "For a country with a GDP per capita of less than $500, having SAS is an unaffordable luxury. Most of my analyses are performed with Epi-Info and SPSS. I often have to give up doing certain tasks that would have been simple to perform with SAS," confirms Bavuu.
He is also involved in designing a project that will create a brand new health information system in Mongolia. The networks will reach as far down as family hospitals in cities and rural areas. He explains, "It is a unique opportunity for us to create a system using lessons learned in different states and countries." And Bavuu sees the need for SAS in his new project, "I expect we will need SAS software for data managing, data analysis and reporting."
Bavuu is a strong advocate of SAS. He has seen what it can do and knows how it can help him in his everyday tasks. "SAS is very flexible. I know what is going on with my data when I am using SAS. I cannot tell the same when it comes to using my current software. SAS allows me to perform a lot of data management tasks that are difficult, if not impossible, with other software."