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2015 Mentor Testimonials

Julian Kickbusch
Julian Kickbusch,

I am Julian Kickbusch, I’m German, but I grew up internationally. Now I’ve been in Berlin for nearly 10 years - one and half of  those years at the World Health Summit.


I got invited to a conference to speak in Barcelona that was organised by the Global Health Next Generation Network and then from there, the Mentorship developed. I had the chance to become the mentor for two great SYPs, and we already had some great discussions.


I think it is a great experience to be a mentor in GHMe. Ever since I’ve started working here at the World Health Summit, one of my goals has been to ensure that young leaders in health have a voice to speak at events that tend to be slightly closed off and by giving a voice to the next generation, we ensure that global health remains on the agenda in the future as well.


GHMe has helped me to get a better understanding of what the next generation of young people dealing with global health think, and the issues that they face looking forward into the next 10 years. Issues of getting jobs in the field, which topics are especially important to them, their relations to the MDGs and then now the SDGs and what they think about the different health topics, which are going to be developed for the future.


Being in the position as Program Director of the WHS, I was able to welcome two young professionals - which I've been advising in GHMe - to attend the summit for free. They took part in sessions as rapporteurs. Joining this conference gave them the chance to experience first hand a global health event and also to network with experienced professionals from the field of global health.


I look forward to work with all the different student organisations and especially with this GHMe program. I also look forward to working with all of you whether it will be in Berlin, Barcelona, Tallinn or Uppsala.

Prof. Tikki Pang,

I come originally from Indonesia, but currently I'm based in Singapore and in Switzerland. I worked for the WHO in Geneva for 13 years (1999-2012). Currently, I am a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore and continue my interest, research and teaching in global health.


I believe that knowledge should be applied and used to improve the health of people in the developing countries.


In my career I would still like to write a book on my experiences in various dimensions of global health.


What made me interested in joining the GHMe program, was the initial exposure to young professionals during the World Healthcare Forum in The Hague in 2014. 


I have found GHMe program very positive and stimulating. We arranged to have three one hour Skype discussions on selected topics of global health. GHMe has given me an opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with future generations of global health leaders.


In GHMe I have learned that my experiences and insights are of interest and value to young professionals wanting to make a mark in global health. Conversely, I also learnt many new insights, perspectives and innovative ideas following stimulating discussions with the young professionals. For example, the group came up with an idea to develop a ‘face’ for each of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to better communicate these goals to the public perhaps through social media. It is definitely a two-way street where both mentor and group members benefit!


GHMe is a great idea which should be expanded, and structure groups with people from different countries and interests to enrich the discussion. Poor internet connectivity in some countries can be a problem.

Tikki Pang
Dr. Ivy Shiue,
United Kingdom

I am currently a senior research associate at Northumbria University, UK. Previously, I have been working in various countries, from Australia to Sweden. Before this job, I was an assistant professor in Scotland.


I started my career from studying sleep quality, mental health and sexual harassment in foreigner household workers in Asia and then moved to stroke medicine in Australasia and Inner Mongolia. Since then, I have developed the research interest in burden of disease and environmental health across different populations and geographic regions.


I am a methodologist and epidemiologist. Therefore, the core research principle for me is to routinely and systematically collect data and then analyse the patterns. Nowadays, people move frequently. Understanding the health profiles from individuals to the world would help re-distribute available resources to help those who are in need.


I’ve been part of the expert group of Global Burden of Disease since 2013, led by University of Washington, USA. Together, we have published numerous papers on burden of disease due to all the identified human diseases in 188 countries. They are mainly published in the Lancet, and we have worldwide media dissemination as well.


It has been interesting to be involved in GHMe because I’m willing to contribute my expertise and experience for the latecomers while learning how to educate and mentor.


I’ve been quite satisfied with the structure in the GHMe mentor-mentee program, although it’s only lasting for 5 months. This first try seems to be positive with a specific topic in each month, and I have also suggested a few more topics in the next round.


I’ve initiated and maintained a rather flexible group discussion over the last few months. We are only a small group, and each of us has a daytime job or study already. Therefore, we could only use our free time off work/study to communicate and learn from each other.


It is not time-consuming so worthwhile to have such experience. Besides, it helps to uncover and cultivate the ability to mentor online. It is a give-and-take process in that more information from different resources could be shared as well. 

Ivy Shuie
Emilie Venables,
United Kingdom

I am an anthropologist from the UK, and I have been based in Johannesburg, South Africa for the last seven years.  I have worked on global health issues, particularly around HIV, for over a decade and have been working with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) since 2012. I have worked in various countries across sub-Saharan Africa and on a variety of issues including HIV/AIDS, TB, Ebola, sex-work and migrant health.   My most recent work has been in Italy, DRC, Mozambique and South Africa and I previously conducted research in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. 


GHMe has been a great experience for me – I got to ‘virtually’ meet three very dedicated SYPs all living in different countries and different timezones.  Managing four way Skype calls on a bad wifi network has been one of the additional skills I’ve picked up during my time as a mentor!  Mentoring has been a great way to meet other people, learn about new areas of global health (such as mental health) and be part of a virtual community of dedicated researchers, humanitarians, students and academics.


I really enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of my GHMe group, and appreciated the level of honesty, reflexivity and openness among them. They really enjoyed the modules on CV writing, ‘elevator pitches’ and leadership and have been able to put these to use during subsequent interviews and applications for jobs. 

I would recommend being a GHMe mentor to anyone who is interested in being part of a dynamic community of people who are keen to learn and enthusiastic about starting their careers in the field of global health.  I would also advise them to share their own experiences (and mistakes!), complete the modules alongside the SYPs and make sure they have a good wifi connection.

Emelie Venables
Fernando Zacarías, MD, DrPH,
United States

I was born in Mexico City where I had my medical education. I specialized in Family Medicine (University of Miami, FL) and later on, in internal medicine and infectious diseases (Emory University in Atlanta,) before returning to Mexico. After five years of practice, research and teaching in my country, I went back to the USA and obtained my degrees (MPH and DrPH) in tropical public health and international health policy and management (Harvard School of Public Health.) I then spent five years as a Visiting Scientist at the Division of Sexually Transmitted Diseases of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, where I had the privilege of working with the experts who discovered the AIDS epidemic. In 1987, I moved from Atlanta to Washington, DC to join the Pan American Health Organization, Regional office of the World Health Organization for the Americas (PAHO/WHO), which is the oldest international health organization in the world (founded in 1902.). I am currently living in Fairfax, VA, a city located 36 Km Southwest of Washington, DC.


My connection goes back many years, more than thirty by now. International health and global health have been my raison d’etre and the backbone of my professional career. During that time, I have travelled more than 2 million miles and provided technical cooperation to 39 countries and territories in the Western Hemisphere (I missed six very small territories in the Caribbean.) At PAHO, I was Chief of the Regional AIDS Program for 17 years, until my United Nations-mandated retirement in 2005. To my surprise, I was called back “to help” in several occasions and from 2005 to 2012, I was Acting Chief of Health Analysis and Statistics, Senior Policy Advisor on Family and Community Health, and Coordinator of the preparation and production of PAHO’s flagship publication “Health in the Americas”, Editions of 2007 and 2012. In December 2012, a group of former colleagues and I founded a not-for-profit organization, “Global Health International Advisors” (GHIA), based in WDC, which now has 80 members in 19 countries. GHIA functions as a think tank, and provides technical advice internationally. At present, I am GHIA’s Director of Operations in charge of project development. I am currently also working at PAHO, helping in the preparation of the Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections for the next six years (2016-2021.) So, basically I have worked in international health (and now in global health) since 1982, and expect to keep working in this field until the lights go out.


This might surprise you because it is unusual that an eight-year-old boy “commit” to becoming a doctor in order to work in international health (specifically at PAHO) at such a young age. There were three main reasons behind this decision: 1) At age 8, I read a book – a birthday present from my mother - on Dr. Albert Schweitzer and his work in Africa; this was the seed. 2) The example of my mother, the mother of eight children, who still found the time and energy to start an ambitious, ahead-of-its-time health and social program in Mexico City, to address mental health, elder health, women’s freedom and opportunities (women had no voting rights in Mexico at that time), street children’s needs, and a few other neglected health and social themes. She had the vision of what 40-50 years later became the social determinants approach to health. She talked to me and I listened. 3) The advice of “the first person I met in this world” (that’s what he used to say), my mother’s obstetrician, who many years later, supported my decision to become a doctor, to specialize in public health, and to join PAHO/WHO. It took me 33 years, but I did it. In a few words, my decision to enter the field was – at that time - a combination of idealism, respect, admiration, imagination, and innocence. I’m interested in global health because it’s because of what it is, because of what it does, and because of what it can - and will - do. There are dozens of definitions of global health, but this is the one I like: “Global Health is health without borders” “A comprehensive, multidisciplinary area of knowledge, policy and practice that seeks to improve individual and collective health across the world; achieve health equity; and contribute to socioeconomic development through collaborative transnational efforts and partnerships.” (F.Zacarias)


My main goal right now is to continue helping young people become stronger, wiser, and more skilled and competent. It is very rewarding to see “your” young student or professional “playing to win” and winning (e.g. getting a new job or an advanced degree, starting a new project, dissecting and solving an important problem, learning something unexpected, trying something new, making a big decision, acquiring self confidence, writing a proposal, etc.) My second goal is to have the opportunity to teach health policy and management to younger colleagues in charge of health and social programs across the world. I strongly believe that creative leadership and rational management dictate the success of any health project or program (or any enterprise, for that matter). “Lack of political power and money” is the complaint of many program directors; but in my long and rather diverse experience, “lack of political power and money” is not the problem. If you are a creative leader and a rational manager you’ll know how to get political support and resources. And you will get them, and you will be successful.


For two decades (perhaps much longer) I have had one or two younger colleagues or interns who have given me the opportunity to advance their professional growth. I have always mentored them face to face and without a time schedule or didactic program. My mentorship has always been organic, spontaneous, and flexible. I saw and read the request for applications to mentor at GHMe, and I jumped at the opportunity. What I found most attractive in GHMe was the program, the consortium of academic institutions and the network of young people interested in Global Health. I was very pleased when I was accepted.


It has been priceless. I had never had 3 SYPs at the same time and in different time zones. GHMe gave me the opportunity to try something new by linking via Skype with three young people across the world. And it was great to be both a mentor and the liaison between SYPs with different knowledge, skills and backgrounds. I also liked the combination of technical themes, general knowledge, and the impromptu sessions on personal and professional issues and decisions. The only improvement I would advise is to make the program last longer (it was only 4.5 months – I would have preferred nine months)


I had one young physician in Medellín, a young economist in Bogotá, and a young laboratory/basic sciences SYP from Suriname, based in Amsterdam. We met for one hour on a weekly basis (that’s what I usually do with my SYPs). Sometimes, we were four, sometimes three, and sometimes two, but at the end, it worked for all of us.


Quite well, as far as my goals for the next few years are concerned. It has been great to see how young people are receptive to both old and new ideas, and most importantly, how rapidly they progress in their critical and analytical thinking and their capacity to make decisions and solve problems.


That I’m useful in my role as a mentor and - judging from the quality of the SYPs I have met throughout the years - that global health is in good hands.


That mentoring goes beyond conventional teaching and gives you the opportunity to transfer the wisdom and experience that you have acquired throughout your life to a new generation of practitioners of global health. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. It’s one of the most satisfying experiences that you will ever have. Guaranteed.

Fernando RK Zacarías, MD, DrPH
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