In Summer 2019, I travelled to Geneva in Switzerland to take up an internship with the World Health Organisation (WHO), an agency of the United Nations. I spent this time with the department for Non-Communicable Disease Management, in particular working on diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, their complications, and how to best manage and control them. It was amazing to be immersed in a group of world experts in the field of global health, and I received invaluable advice and support and many useful contacts for the future career. I also experienced first-hand the work the WHO does and how it impacts on future policy decisions in countries around the world.
During my time there, I worked on developing guidelines and global reports, attended seminars and meetings, and the biggest piece of work was writing up the discussions that took place over two days regarding the use of diabetes registries in low-resource settings, which will hopefully eventually be published. Travelling to a completely new country which I’d never been to before, working with colleagues who are some of the leaders in their area, and making friends with new people from all over the world and all different walks of life definitely built my personal and professional confidence; and this experience certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me onto a very steep learning curve to cope with some demanding work.
My fellow interns and I soon discovered that the World Health Organisation’s bureaucracy makes that of the NHS’ look like child’s play. There are so many hoops to jump through and so much administration to deal with at each stage of doing almost anything that at some points it became difficult to see how what was being done could have any impact in the real world without huge amounts of time and effort from all those involved. While the WHO does so much amazing work in so many areas, it feels like it could still be doing so much more if given the resources. What was great to see was the passion that so many of the staff at the WHO had in their field and the huge strides the WHO has made in recent years in improving global health.
Geneva and the surrounding areas of France were astonishing places, and I very much enjoyed travelling at the weekends and in the evenings, as well as practising some of my limited French. Some of the highlights were taking the cable car up Mount Salève to see amazing views of the whole of Geneva, swimming in mountain lakes, enjoying the awesome wine and cheeses Switzerland has to offer, and taking part in Geneva’s pride march. I thank the Go Abroad fund for making it possible to travel to, live and work in such an incredible place, and gain such a valuable experience.