Here are some photos our MPH student Caitlin Yeung took at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) 2019, in which she attended as the sponsored student accompany for Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General Emeritus of the World Health Organization. These are pictures Caitlin took with Dr Chan, Mr Naveen Rao, Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation, Prof Michael Reich of the Harvard TH Chen School of Public Health and Mr Tim Evans, Senior Director of the World Bank.
Below are a few words Caitlin would like to share with you about her experience:
This year, I was fortunate enough to be the sponsored student accompany for Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General Emeritus of the World Health Organization, to the Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. PMAC is an annual policy-related international conference co-hosted by 20 international global health agencies, including the Thai Ministry of Health, World Health Organization, The World Bank and The Rockefeller Foundation. The theme this year was “The Political Economy of NCDs: A Whole of Society Approach”.
Apart from her current duties of promoting development and health reform in China as a member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and President of Boao Global Health Forum, Dr. Chan is also passionate about educating young people and building capacity for the next generation. In the months leading up to the conference, Dr. Chan repeatedly took time out of her busy schedule to chat and meet up with me, to share her insights, wisdom and political acumen she gained over her career as Director General of WHO, Director of Health in Hong Kong and her current work in China. We discussed the various landmark documents related to the conference from her tenure at the WHO, which allowed me to witness how global political attention NCDs has increased significantly over recent years. She also taught me how to write briefs for her speeches at the opening plenary and dinner dialogue on global health, and organize her schedule for the conference. Moreover, she answered many of my burning questions related to her work in WHO, and her views on China’s Belt and Road Initiative and direction on health reform.
PMAC was definitely an eye-opening experience. Dr. Chan personally introduced me to many of her old friends, all of whom are pioneers and navigators at the forefront of global health. From attending the plenaries and side sessions, I gained a deeper understanding on how wide-ranging perspectives and concerns are drawn together at the top level to steer the direction of global policies, and listened to the experiences of people from all corners of the world on implementing these global policies to make an impact at the local level. From Dr. Chan’s dinner dialogue on Global Health, I witnessed her charisma and communication skills that convinces people from different walks of life to see things from her point of view. I also had the opportunity to visit Siriraj Hospital, the oldest and largest hospital in Thailand, where I observed how they provide personalized holistic care in diabetes with a multidisciplinary approach. Through engaging in thought-provoking discussions with people working at different levels, from global agencies such as the United Nations and top-tier academic institutions to local non-profit organizations, I learnt from their successes in the fight against NCDs and listened to the vexing challenges that will still need continuous efforts in the years to come. Furthermore, Dr. Chan took the time out during the conference to individually discuss what I learnt and share her views on the topics covered in the conference with me. Her teachings will stay with me for a lifetime, and I am forever grateful.
Attending PMAC with Dr. Chan truly broadened my horizons, and allowed me to see the endless ways I could make an impact to health in my community and beyond. As she told me once during a conversation, “We need a whole of society approach: no matter which platform you are in, you can perform within your platform to make a difference.” Although I am still at the very early stages of my career, I will continue to strive to look at the big global picture, and work within my platform to try and make a difference in my community.