New Chapter

I just spent 30 minutes staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page. You know when there’ s so much you want to say that no words seem qualified for the job…Anyhow, vocabulary insufficiencies aside, here is my update:

I graduated. I now have a B.Sc. It goes without saying that some of my most defining moments in the past 4 years are not encompassed within this little designation. My time at UBC has allowed me to dabble into many different worlds and disciplines- it’ s helped me to develop a better sense of self and a broader understanding of the inevitable multi-disciplinarity inherent in most issues. This also means that I’m a little more confused about everything as compared to 4 years ago, which isn’t really a bad thing. I couldn’ t have asked for a richer experience at UBC nor more wonderful people to share it with.

I’ m spending my summer in Geneva on an internship with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the department of Health Systems and Services. I’ve met many interesting people and heard lots of great stories of journeys taken en route
to the pursuit of passion.

Geneva is a beautiful city (Photo credit: Annika Green) and because of the presence of several international organizations (UN, WHO, UNAIDS, WTO, ILO, and other acronyms), it has a very diverse population. I was lucky enough to be here while the world health assembly (WHA) was taking place. This annual assembly sees delegates from the world over gathering together to reach agreements over issues such as the health-related MDGs (millennium development goals), climate change and health, the structure of the WHO itself and more. Check out the mediacentre for outcomes. To open the assembly, invited speakers such as her Excellency, Sheikh Hasina reminded delegates of the human faces of public health and the importance of primary prevention while Bill Gates spoke about setting coherent priorities within member states (with a focus on vaccines). Dr. Margaret Chan stressed the importance of placing a focus on functional and sustainable health systems.

She also spoke about the challenges that the WHO is facing at its current state of insufficient funds and hiring freezes, but she spoke with hope for a new and more effective WHO.

I had the opportunity to observe some of the proceedings as committees were making decisions regarding the proposed resolutions. There were some pretty heated debates, especially regarding the destruction of Variola strains in the
US and Russia (small pox virus reserves). The destruction has been postponed another 3 years.

Glance at this video for a time-lapse video of the WHA to get an idea of the amount of planning/coordination

Other things I’ ve learned so far include:
– Biking near bodies of water is good for the soul (it’ s a lesson that I like to relearn constantly), but wear sunscreen regardless of it “ only being May”
– You may cross borders without realizing and end up not having the right currency
– The US mission in Geneva has more stringent security than the UN itself
– Canada dissociated itself from the resolution regarding “ Improving access to safe water and sanitation.” They did it eloquently, but …

Well that’ s it for now. I hope you’ re having a lovely summer. Please share any thoughts or questions in the comments below.

À Bientôt,



1 Comment

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One response to “New Chapter

  1. D

    If the “new and improved WHO” link isn’t working, try this one:

    (photo credit of Lake Geneva Photo= Annika Green)

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