Introduction to Newsletter
Note from the Chair of the Network of WHO Intern Alumni
Welcome to the second instalment of the Network of WHO Intern Alumni (NWIA) newsletter, and our first issue with our new name. Much has changed since the first almost a year ago. The World Cup has come and gone, the Millennium Development Goals are soon to expire, yet the fragility of health systems in many of the world’s poorest countries remains. This has caught international attention in West Africa, where the Ebola outbreak continues to inflict substantial health and societal damage.
In this issue, we’re glad to share updates from the WHO-HQ Intern Board, with whom we continue to strengthen our collaboration. We’re also pleased to celebrate the achievements of current and past interns, and feature a dispatch from two WHO Intern Alumni: Isabelle Feldhaus shares her experience and reflections of interning at two Global Health Organisations, WHO-HQ and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and David Oh on his perspectives as a former intern in Immunizations, Vaccines, and Biologicals at WHO.
As we proceed through 2015, the NWIA will be working to grow the network, and continue to advocate for current and former global health intern issues. We’re delighted to feature in this instalment the statement submitted to the 136th WHO Executive Board meeting on Intern Representation at WHO-HQ, on behalf of the NWIA, Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network and Health Action International.
As ever, we’re guided by our intern alumni and welcome your feedback and input on our work.
Best wishes for a successful and progressive 2015.
On behalf of NWIA Board
Note from the Current WHO-HQ Intern Board President
It has been a fantastic couple months for the WHO Intern Board. We currently have many exciting projects on the go, both to improve the experience of current WHO interns, and to broaden access to the WHO internship programme, so that the intern community properly represents the Member States that WHO serves.
December saw our participation in the Staff solidarity fair, where we had our own stall to support the Staff Association and raise awareness about Equitable Access for interns.
We have strengthened our collaboration with the NWIA, creating the position of Intern Alumni Liaison, to ensure that the link between current WHO interns and the NWIA remains strong in the future. We have also created the position of Professional Welfare Coordinator, dedicated to Equitable Access but with the long-term goal of paid internships, working with the NWIA and the Geneva Interns Association.
The Board is currently working on a number of other projects, including Guidelines for Supervisors, which seek to provide clear standards as to what constitutes acceptable work for interns. HR is very supportive of this project, and we hope to make it a compulsory part of the intern recruitment process.
It definitely hasn’t been all work and no play though; the Intern Board continues to organise plenty of fun intern activities, including ice-skating, fondue nights, sustainability projects, the hugely popular E4I (Experts for Interns) educational talks, and even a ski trip!
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of such a dynamic and ambitious team, who have proved that the all-too-short time we have as interns need not be a barrier to real progress to ensure that the WHO internship scheme is as accessible, rewarding and enjoyable as possible!
President, WHO Intern Board
Intern, WHO-HQ, Non-Communicable Disease, Surveillance and Population Based Prevention, November 2014 – January 2015
MA, Human Rights, University of Sussex, UK
BA, History, University of Cambridge, UK
Statement on WHO-HQ Intern Representation Submitted by HAI, NWIA, and YPCDN to WHO Executive Board 136
Stichting Health Action International (HAI)
Meeting: Executive Board 136
Agenda Item: 14.4 Human resources: update
Chair and esteemed delegates: I am speaking on behalf of Stichting Health Action International, the Network of WHO Intern Alumni and the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network. I am also speaking as one of thousands of former WHO interns, to raise an issue of great importance to global human resources for health: internships at WHO headquarters.
Each year, over 500 interns work without pay at WHO-HQ, comprising 16% of total personnel. Their contribution is vital to WHO’s work and without them, the WHO workplan could not be completed. Many former interns return as WHO staff, or assume important national or international roles in policy-making.1 One example is former intern Dr. Bruce Aylward, ADG and coordinator of the WHO Ebola response.2
Yet, only 20% of WHO-HQ interns come from LMICs, with many member states not represented at all.3 The shortage of LMIC interns at WHO-HQ is a missed opportunity to develop human resources for health in both WHO and LMIC Member States.
Two main factors restrict internship accessibility and drive disproportionate representation are: the unpaid, voluntary status of WHO internships, and a selection process without institutional oversight, and demonstrably fails to deliver geographic diversity.
We therefore urge Member States to:
Firstly, request a report on WHO-HQ intern representation for 2013-2015 for review at the 2016 Executive Board meeting, and annual reporting thereafter.
Secondly, we request the creation of a dedicated WHO Internship Programme Director, tasked with promoting equity and balancing Member State representation through a centralized intern selection process. We have the network and expertise to support WHO to select interns with a diverse geographical representation.
Lastly, we request that a report be issued by the next Executive Board Meeting on the cost and feasibility of supporting LMIC interns through stipends at WHO-HQ, as offered by some other UN agencies.4
1 Posta I, Wynes D. Internships in the United Nations System. United Nations: Joint Inspection Unit. 2009. JIU/NOTE/2009/2.
2 Vestal, G. When internships turn into careers. UN Special.
3 Barnett-Vanes A, Kedia T, Anyangwe S. Equitable access for global health internships: insights and strategies at WHO headquarters. Lancet. Glob. Heal. 2014.
4 Posta I, Wynes D. Internships in the United Nations System. United Nations: Joint Inspection Unit, 2009. JIU/NOTE/2009/2. The specific UN organizations with a paid internship programme include the World Trade Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, World Food Programme, and International Labor Organization.
Intern, WHO-HQ, Health Systems and Services Cluster; Health Policies and Workforce Department, May – August 2012
Program Manager, Center for Global Surgical Studies, University of California San Francisco (UCSF)
BS, BA, University of Southern California
MSPH (Master of Science in Public Health), Johns Hopkins University
During my internship with the WHO-HQ’s Human Resources for Health (HRH) team, I reviewed and catalogued information on health workforce metrics at global, regional, and national levels – in other words, the data mining behind those numbers in the WHO Global Health Observatory Data Repository. With this data being used to inform HRH policy and programs, I quickly grasped the significance of decisions to include or exclude data, as well as how data are presented. I also facilitated workshops aimed at strengthening national HRH surveillance systems. Through these experiences, I learned what countries are doing to reach national HRH goals, their challenges and successes, their needs in different contexts, and what support they need from the international community.
Two years later, nearing the end of my MSPH program, I joined the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) for five months as an HRH intern based in New York City. CHAI works across HRH topics where governments have requested technical support. I supported multiple projects, including their flagship seven-year medical education partnership for Rwanda’s Human Resources for Health Program. I gained insight into managing programs in real-time, from gaining stakeholder buy-in to securing adequate funding to ensuring functional capacity on the ground. While we used WHO guidelines and frameworks to guide program planning and implementation, we focused on achieving programmatic goals and direct, measurable impact.
There were a number of differences between my internships at WHO and CHAI, where the internship program is managed by the Clinton Foundation. The Foundation is a smaller organization than WHO, with only 73 interns in my spring 2014 CHAI class, compared to WHO’s annual intake of 600. While the internship at WHO was primarily an independent endeavour, the internship program with the Clinton Foundation is highly structured with a coordination team that is easily accessible to interns, largely displacing the need for an Intern Board as at WHO. The Foundation creates only internship roles that will be instrumental to the success of its initiatives, and offers frequent skill-building workshops and career development presentations targeted exclusively for interns, concluding with a Q&A session with President Bill Clinton.
Having worked in these different roles on similar HRH issues, I am able to bridge the gaps between academic research, programmatic goals, and advocacy for global policy and governance for health. In my current role as Program Manager for the UCSF Center for Global Surgical Studies, this has proven invaluable to understanding how my work at a research university remains critically relevant to and interlinked with what is happening in real-time on the ground and the guiding role WHO maintains on the global stage. In the future, I plan to pursue a PhD focusing on economic evaluation for international health systems, continuing to work on HRH, health financing and insurance, and global health law and policy.
Intern, WHO-HQ, Family, Women’s, and Children’s Health Cluster, Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, June – September 2014
B.Sc. in Earth & Environmental Engineering
“A constant struggle, a ceaseless battle to bring success from inhospitable surroundings, is the price of all great achievements.”
-Orison Swett Marden
Her name is Tracy. She is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the eleven-year-old adopted daughter of Tom, my host father during my internship in Uganda. On her knees screaming and bleeding, Tracy has a deep laceration on her leg. My fears are realized when I discover her brother – suffering from poor mental health – had cut her. Tracy’s mother Rachel and I take Tracy immediately to the nearest nurse’s clinic: a small hut beside a dirt road. There, on a ragged, dusty sofa Tracy lies down as the nurse prepares a tetanus shot under a dim light bulb. After the shot and some bandages, the nurse charges Rachel 20,000 Ugandan shillings (~8 USD), a sizeable amount for refugees without a stable source of income. Follow-up care is barely discussed, and Tracy is sent home on her limping leg.
Fast forward 6 months, and I am in Geneva, Switzerland, in the middle of my internship at WHO-HQ in the Department of Immunizations, Vaccines, and Biologicals. I support my team to track the progress of countries in achieving higher targets for immunizations, including tetanus; I find out the percentage of countries that have run out of particular vaccines at the national level; and help determine which factors, such as high drop-outs or low access to vaccines, cause low coverage rates. In the midst of this work, I wonder how Tracy’s story fits into these global figures.
For me, the direct juxtaposition of these experiences highlights the tension between different approaches to global health: the community versus the national/international level. Indeed, somewhere within these statistics might lay Tracy’s story. But as a statistic, it plainly fails to capture the local context and complex issues I witnessed a few months before: for example, of dealing with mental illness or access to vaccines, of economic constraints or workforce resources, and getting adequate follow-up care. Nor does it encompass regional stability issues that may be driving local displacement, and the health issues that may arise.
To me, it initially seemed that my work at the WHO focussed on populations at the expense of the individuals. Yet, over time, I began to notice the essential health needs that the WHO fulfills throughout the world: coordinating the global Ebola outbreak response; bringing neglected issues such as the impact of climate change on health to the world’s attention; and constantly monitoring countries’ health statistics in an effort to keep them accountable. After seeing the different, but clearly necessary, roles of both ground- and international-level global health workers, I realized that these tensions may never resolve, due in part to the difficulty of translating disparate local policy needs into internationally applicable guidelines, and vice versa.
But while better communication and coordination between the local and global levels is always desirable, the lack of a perfect solution is no reason to falter, for perhaps it is precisely by recognizing these seemingly frictional struggles that, slowly but surely, collective progress is made.
Want to get in touch with any of these alumni? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you in touch!
1. Yi-Sheng Chao, MD, MPH. Intern, Health Systems and Services Cluster (HSS), WHO-HQ, 2010.
PhD, Rutgers University, USA, 2012.
2. Oluyemisi Falope, MBBS. Intern, Global Capacities, Alert & Response, WHO-HQ, 2013
MPH, University of South Florida, 2013.
3. Adebowale Oyegoke. Intern, Maternal, Newborn, Child & Adolescent Department, Policy & Programming Division, WHO-HQ, 2014.
Medicine (MBBS), King’s College London, United Kingdom, 2016.
4. Nana Sarkodie-Mensah. Intern, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), WHO-HQ, 2012, MSc, University College London, UK, 2014.
Project Officer, RedR UK (humanitarian capacity building).
5. Yu Mon Saw. Intern, STOP TB Department, WHO-HQ, 2011.
PhD (Community and Global Health), School of International Health/Global Health Sciences Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Japan, 2014.
6. Crystal Whitmore. Intern, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO-HQ, 2012-13.
Master of Health Policy, University of Sydney, Australia, 2014.
WHO Publications (Co-Authorships or Contributions)
1. Tara Kedia, BA. Intern, Stop TB Department, WHO-HQ, 2012.
WHO. Guidance for national tuberculosis programmes on the management of tuberculosis in children, Second Edition. 2014.
Other Publications (Co-Authorships or Contributions)
1. Ashton Barnett-Vanes, BSc, FRSA. Intern, Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response, WHO-HQ, 2012.
Tara Kedia, BA. Intern, Stop TB Department, WHO-HQ, 2012.
Barnett-Vanes A, Kedia T, Anyangwe S. Equitable Access to Global Health Internships, insights and strategies at WHO HQ. Lancet Global Health 2014; 2: e257 – e259.
2. Yi-Sheng Chao, MD, MPH. Intern, Health Systems and Services Cluster (HSS), WHO-HQ, 2010.
Chao YS, Brunel L, Faris P, Veugelers PJ. (2013). The importance of dose, frequency and duration of vitamin D supplementation for plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Nutrients. 2013; 5(10): 4067-4078.
3. Oluyemisi Falope, MBBS. Intern, Global Capacities, Alert & Response, WHO-HQ, 2013
Falope O, Hanson K, Azizan A. Dengue and Mosquito Control Programs: A Comparative Analysis. J Appl Life Sci Int. 2015; 2(1): 35-48.
4. Megan Ghai. Intern, Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases, WHO-HQ, 2012.
Martin S, et al. Post-licensure Deployment of Oral Cholera Vaccines: A Systematic Review. Bull WHO. 2014; 92(12): 881-93.
5. Jordan Jarvis, BSc, MSc. Intern, Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion, WHO-HQ, 2012.
Ojakaa D, Olango S, Jarvis JD. Factors affecting the motivation and retention of primary health care workers in three disparate regions in Kenya. Human Resources for Health. 2014; 12(1):33.
6. Adebowale Oyegoke. Intern, Maternal, Newborn, Child & Adolescent Department, Policy & Programming Division, WHO-HQ, 2014.
Aboubaker S, Qazi S, Wolfheim C, Oyegoke A, Bahl R. Community health workers: A crucial role in newborn health care and survival. J of Glob Heal. 2015; 4(2): 020302.
7. Yu Mon Saw, Intern, STOP TB Department, WHO-HQ, 2011.
Saw YM, Poudel KC, Kham NP, et al. Assessment of HIV testing among young methamphetamine users in Muse, Northern Shan State, Myanmar. BMC public health 2014; 14(1): 735.
Yasuoka J, Saito J, Saw YM, Sunguya BF, Amiya RM, Jimba M. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Relevance for Low-Income Countries in Asia. Routledge Handbook of Global Public Health in Asia. Ed. Siân M. Griffiths, Jin Ling Tang, Eng Kiong Yeoh. Routledge, 2014 April.
1. Wolfram Demmer, MD, PhD. Intern, StopTB (GMX-Sekreteriat), 2010-11.
Humanitarian work as surgeon in Puma, Tanzania, 6 months in 2014.
We would like to hear about your achievements to share them with alumni in the next newsletter. Please email us at email@example.com and keep us updated!