Last Friday was my last day working at the World Health Organization, and to be honest, it was quite hard to leave! Throughout my six weeks in Geneva I have learned a great deal about international communications about disease and health, networked with leaders in their fields, and made incredible friendships with talented interns from around the world.
I want to share with you readers some of the great experiences I had and lessons learned from my time at WHO.
• Attending biweekly press briefings at the United Nations: I was able to hear updates from every major UN agency in Geneva. To me it was a live newspaper feed every few days, even easier than reading a newspaper.
• Recognizing the benefits and challenges of working in a multicultural environment: WHO employees come from all over the world, and they bring with them unique cultural perspectives and educational backgrounds. I feel fortunate to have interacted with individuals, staff and interns alike, from all different countries who shared fresh outlooks on global health problems.
• Evaluating how the WHO can be improved: The WHO was a great place to work, but in every large organization, there is room for improvement. I experienced a few times the frustration that others such as former ADG Jack Chow voiced in op-eds. The WHO is highly bureaucratic and therefore moves at a slower speed because of so many players who must clear anything that goes out. Unlike many critics of WHO, though, I believe that the reform can help. By consolidating departments, critically reexamining the budget, and finding new powerful partners within the field, the WHO can adapt to the times and remain an integral resource to governments world-wide.
• Gaining basic and advanced communication skills through participating in multiple communications training workshops tailored for healthcare professionals: Dr. Gaya Gamhewage led very useful workshops on how to be good spokespeople for the WHO. I summarized all her best tips on this recent blogpost for the Open Society Foundation
• Meeting global health experts through informational interviewing at WHO and UNAIDS: Being in the WHO environment meant being surrounded by individuals who are passionate about making a difference in global health through their work. I was able to find and email several individuals in departments I am interested in, and most people were more than happy to make time to meet with me and share their work.
All in all, my time at the WHO was a good learning experience, and I hope the fellow can go back next year and contribute to the communications department. Big thank you to the Communications team (Christy Feig, Gaya Gamhewage, Fadela Chaib, Sari Setiogi, and Veronica Riemer) for having me and giving me this learning opportunity.
With Katrina Li in the hall leading to the Executive Board Room
Farewell Picnic at the Chateau de Penthe with fellow interns Flore and Raphaele
With the Director of Communications Christy Feig