This program allows students from around the country an opportunity to be involved with an eight-to-twelve week internship with a variety of international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in Geneva, Switzerland. Along with this internship is a weeklong course directed by Dr. Anthony So entitled “Health Policy in a Globalizing World”. In this course we receive a series of seminars and lectures by a variety of health professionals in multiple international organizations around Geneva as well as multiple site visits of several of those organizations.
I had the opportunity to work at the World Health Organization (WHO) in their division of Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property (PHI). My supervisor, Dr. Zafar Mirza, and I worked for several weeks on addressing a novel paradigm for the interaction between the principles and processes of innovation in health beyond just medical technology. As a medical student at Duke University School of Medicine, I have become increasingly interested in this interface between innovation and health and how certain international policies both within health and outside of health impact the capacity of developing nations to build sustainable and quality products for those individuals within their respected regions and nations.
It was an outstanding opportunity to meet important players and stakeholders in the world of health policy and I gained many invaluable experiences working under the leadership of Dr. Mirza. One of the most exciting components of my work is that because of the size and scope of my project, there will be many opportunities for me to continue to collaborate with the rest of the PHI team and work on this project even after my internship has finished.
This was a fast-paced event and I had the chance to see a variety of different meetings including the passing of a multiple resolutions, several side-events ranging from Anti-microbial resistance, Palliative Care, access to medicines, intellectual property and health, among others. The keynote speakers this year were Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, the First Lady of Zambia who gave a powerful discourse on the devastating impact that gender violence has on the world and she was followed by Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her speech on the increasing needs to address simple maternal, newborn, and child health needs hit home as I aspire to become a pediatrician and will be applying to different pediatric residencies this upcoming fall.
The adventures continued as a few short weeks after the WHA, I had the chance to listen to for Secretary-General Kofi Annan speak and have a frank discussion on the needs of UN, international policy, and what the future generation can provide to address these urgent issues. Once again it was an eye-opening and powerful discussion and was an encouraging motivator to become involved in advocacy and policy, especially while in our formative years, as these experiences will be foundational in our future life-trajectory.
Of course, the title of this blog has two components. The first is that of the program and the different opportunities and experiences I gained as a Duke global health fellow, and the second is about my family. I was lucky enough to have my wife Cabrina and our almost 2-year old son Luke come and participate in this amazing experience.
We stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment in a town called Annemasse that is actually in France and borders the city of Geneva. It was quite the journey travelling through Europe and living with a 2-year old but my wife is a rock and an incredible mother who was absolutely fantastic with our son, while she was learning French and gaining a rich, multi-cultural experience visiting various sites through Geneva and Europe. They were a constant support during this experience and to have them go through this with me provided me a stability, a comfort, and an excitement for life that I wouldn’t have gained otherwise. We had several excursions during our weekends including visits to Munich, Barcelona, Naples, Interlaken, Paris and a variety of other expeditions around the area that could not have been had any where else. It was absolutely exhausting, but it was incredible.