The Public Health Officer Who Travels around the World on a Cruise - Dr. Parvani Laad (Part 2)

An account of an engaging conversation between Dr. Parvani Laad, a Public Health Officer at Princess Cruises, and the MedBound Times.
Dr. Parvani Laad, BAMS, MPH, is a Public Health Officer at Princess Cruises.
Dr. Parvani Laad, BAMS, MPH, is a Public Health Officer at Princess Cruises.

Welcome to part 2 of our conversation with Dr. Parvani Laad.

Here we explore the roles and responsibilities of a Public Health Officer on an International Cruise, and some personal views of Dr. Parvani Laad.

Dr. Amey: Ma'am, tell us about Princess Cruises. What were some of your roles and responsibilities on the cruise ship?

Dr. Laad: I reached San Francisco in October 2022. I had training for 25 days at Royal Princess which is a royal class ship at Princess Cruises. We were a group of four and were given training for the position of Public Health Officer. My other colleagues were based out of Australia, South Africa, and the Philippines. The post of Public Health Officer was relatively new as the pandemic had increased its importance. The training was provided by a Fleet Public Health Officer. My journey started in Ensenada city in Mexico. Public Health Officer is a two-and-a-half stripe position. For example, a captain is in a four-stripe position. I would report to Hotel General Manager (HGM).

So basically a cruise ship is a hotel that floats. A Public Health Officer has responsibilities in many departments. There are many departments like the rooms division, guest services, food and beverage, technical, dept, entertainment, etc. All these departments require people. And where there are people, there is Public Health. That's the way I see it. My responsibilities were very well defined. They train you very well. I never had any formal training for my earlier jobs.

Where there are people, there is Public Health.

Dr. Parvani Laad, BAMS, MPH

I had to travel to countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. A PHO is an Inspection Officer. I had to carry out an announced and unannounced inspection. There are different standards set out by different countries. They view public health very differently than how we in India view public health. In India, we are working on diseases like anemia and malnutrition, or we are writing policies. However, here the responsibilities are to check if the food is at the proper temperature, the water has a proper pH, if the filters are good, and if the quarantine of some passengers is going the way it is supposed to. There is also a medical department in which we had to work and see the proper documentation of records. The standards and policies were different for different countries. So I had to learn the policies of different countries. For example, whole fruits were not allowed in New Zealand. If there is an orange, we have to make sure that it is peeled. An apple should always be cut, etc. Different policies had different policy numbers. I had to learn all of them and carry out inspections.

We have thrown containers of food even if the temperature of food is off by one degree. We would never risk the health of the passengers.

Dr. Parvani Laad, BAMS, MPH

A Marathi newspaper that says, "Dr. Parvani Laad selected as a Public Health Officer in America."
A Marathi newspaper that says, "Dr. Parvani Laad selected as a Public Health Officer in America."

My day would start at 7 AM. My day would even start early at 5:30 AM in the USA. There was a rule that if I'm in a country, then a public health team of that country can visit my ship for inspection. So if I'm in Brisbane, the Australian public health team can visit my ship. So I had to make sure all the departments are maintaining all the standards. For example, I had to go with the rooms division department and check all the pantries and kitchens, if the food is labeled properly, and if the temperature is right or not. We have thrown containers of food even if the temperature of food is off by one degree. We would never risk the health of the passengers.

So my responsibilities were training all the departments and inspection. Another responsibility was bio-security and pest control. What type of food is allowed from water to land, and from land to water? Countries like Australia and New Zealand had strict rules about their ecosystem. So soil, plants, or dried plants from their country should stay in their country only. Many rules, standards, and policies are like these. When public health teams from other countries would visit, they would grade each ship out of 100. Our ship always scored above 95.

Dr. Amey: What do you like to do in your free time?

Dr. Laad: I never had a lot of free time. I would always write or jot down something. However, right now, if you ask me, I'm addicted to Netflix since I have a lot of free time (laughs). I like to wake up in the morning and spend time with my family. The four of us have never stayed under one roof till COVID happened. We also have a big garden where we grow a lot of vegetables. So I've done a lot of gardening. We hardly buy vegetables from outside. I'm always taking sessions (on health or menstrual health). Other than that many people reach out to me about their careers, internships, or how to prepare for MPH and everything. I enjoy replying to that as well. Travel is another passion of mine. And yes, I just keep on making Excel sheets, I would say (laughs).

Dr. Amey: What do you hate the most, and what triggers you?

Dr. Laad: I hate lies. I have seen people doing bad things and have no regrets while doing so. I never lie. I mean I don't remember lying. I don't like to be harsh on someone, but you don't always have to be harsh, to tell the truth. The truth can be said nicely as well. I hate cheating. That angers me. I've seen so many people having to fight battles because of one person. I think you should be responsible for your behavior. I also don't like the fact that some people don't get the privilege that we all get. That's why I make it a point to do at least 10% of what we do for ourselves for others.

Dr. Amey: If your life was a movie, what would you name it?

Dr. Laad: I guess I would just name it YOLO (You Live Only Once).

Dr. Amey: What would you be doing if you were not a doctor/public health practitioner?

Dr. Laad: Public health professional was all I want to be. You must be knowing that our fathers and grandfathers have some dreams for us. So ever since I was a child, my grandfather would always tease me as a doctor. So it was always a doctor or engineer for me. As a student, I was terrified of Maths. My parents even told me to take Maths in college, but I was terrified of it. I would still get nightmares of failing in Maths. I always equated Maths with Engineering. So Medicine was the only choice. After BAMS, I finally got to wholeheartedly choose what I wanted, so I went for Public Health. So public health professional was all I wanted to be. I can just take any topic and pivot it to public health.

Public health professional was all I want to be.
Public health professional was all I want to be.

Dr. Amey: Finally a message for society

Dr. Laad: I would just do what my Mom and Dad do. The same thing, do at least 10-20% good to others of what you would for yourselves. Everybody impacts everybody. We meet so many people in our journey of life. Even when I was in the rural village of Nandurbar, people don't have any privileges. People who do not even have a proper house but still were super good at heart. The people who stay in the jungles, they don't have anything. Yet they don't look behind to feed you things like chicken.

I still remember when I was in Nashik, I had a meeting with this person who is from UNICEF and was in Nandurbar. The distance between Nashik and Nandurbar is very far. However, the meeting was very important, so I had to attend it. I had another meeting in Ahmednagar and one in Nashik. I left Nashik at 5:30 PM, and Nandurbar is essentially a village, and it can be very dangerous at night if you don't have transportation. I remember, I reached a town called Dhule, and there were no buses to Nandurbar. I was alone at the bus station along with a conductor. I called a colleague, and he arranged a person's house for me to stay. I went with this person on a bike, and we traveled for a half hour to reach a jungle. I got very scared and kept emergency numbers ready on my phone. However, the man took me to his house at the police quarters. The man's wife made dinner for me at 11 PM. They got up early the other day and were looking for buses for me so I could reach Nandurbar. They helped me catch a bus at 5:30 AM, and I reached it safely. There was no reason for them to be nice. They came out of nowhere and became an important part of my life. You touch so many people's lives just by being you. And so many people inspire you just by being them. So be nice to people.

I would also say to be adventurous. I have done many such things along with traveling alone at night. When I was in Wellington, an earthquake surfaced. So many people say how I manage to go on a cruise for these many months. But what's the worse that can happen? I have seen so many active volcanoes and met such remote tribes, it's just amazing. So be adventurous.

Dr. Parvani Laad, BAMS, MPH, is a Public Health Officer at Princess Cruises.
The Public Health Officer Who Travels around the World on a Cruise - Dr. Parvani Laad (Part 1)