A Cambridge MPP at the WHO

This blog post was written by Evan Goldstein, a 2014 candidate for the MPP, as a reflection on his time with the World Health Organisation (WHO) as part of the work placement programme for the MPP. Our thanks again to the WHO for their support of our programme and for supporting our students so well.

The clock on my desktop read 11:08 a.m. – yet still no call. I was anxious and checked my Outlook calendar to make sure had I marked the right time and date for my call with a senior-level policy director from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Ding! At 11:11 a.m. an email came through:

“Hi Evan! I am so sorry! It has been a crazy week and Bill is travelling with us in Europe. Could we speak on Monday or Wednesday next week?”

Bill was Bill Gates, one of the most powerful men in the world. And yet I was being sincerely apologized to for a mere postponed phone call. Such is the life of a World Health Organization (WHO) intern.

And such was life during my time at the WHO on loan from the Cambridge MPhil in Public Policy (MPP) programme.

WHO foyer sign

WHO foyer sign

As a dedicated health policy nerd, my experience with the WHO has been surreal. Nestled amidst the Swiss Alps, peaceful Geneva served as the perfect place to live, play, and get down-and-dirty with real-world policy challenges – the type of policy challenges that have global ramifications. While in Geneva, I worked within the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases (PND) Department on the issue of global tobacco control and advocacy strategy. In particular, within the department, I:

  • Analyzed global advocacy strategy successfully implemented by global TB, HIV/AIDS, polio and other major global health stakeholders to decide which were most relevant for tobacco control – and especially as they relate to the international tobacco treaty (FCTC), UN noncommunicable disease (NCD) strategy and the post-Millennium Development Goals health focus; and
  • Gained advocacy strategy insight and learned best practices (e.g., communications and social media, celebrity endorsement, leadership, UN political mechanisms, economic policy, policy linkage, fund development) from mid-to-senior level experts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Stop TB, UN Task Force on NCDs, CDC, UNAIDS, Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and GAVI for a final project to be shared with the WHO, CDC, and contributing organizations.

The WHO’s greatest assets are the people who work within its office walls. My supervisors were as friendly as they were humble, always ready to help. One of my supervisors was even a former public health director for the country of India, so even passing conversations proved to be much-appreciated learning moments for the avid policy nerd!

The WHO also has a dynamic formal internship programme and community, comprised of health-related professionals from across the globe. Despite my status as an atypical “special” intern, the intern community welcomed me with open arms – to the programme, seminars, events with Director-General Margaret Chan, and even intern dinners and social events. From day one, I met fellow interns who will no doubt be lifelong friends and professional peers. I am continuing my work with the WHO Executive Intern Board as a fundraising coordinator for its Low-and-Middle Income Country Intern Scholarship Programme.

Needless to say, my MPP work placement experience was both enjoyable and enriching.

Evan Goldstein is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and a graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he received his BA in economics, Phi Beta Kappa. After his graduation in 2011, Evan worked in the field of US health care policy and administration. Evan served as Urban Health Fellow for both the Cuyahoga Health Access Partnership (CHAP), a public-private consortium of health care entities that works to bring health access to the uninsured via the Affordable Care Act of 2010; and Care Alliance Health Center, a leading US institution for the provision of health care for the homeless.

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