A Week of New Experiences at the 69th WHA

This past week at the 69th World Health Assembly has been a whirlwind of emotions. From excitement while waiting in the security line to enter the UN, to sitting in awe in the NGO seating area listening to the opening statements.

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I have had the opportunity to meet the most amazing people who have done incredible things with their lives. Thanks to the effort of Bethie Ross, we were able to meet with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. She spoke to us of the advances being made in information technology and of U.S. goals.

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In addition, we were able to attend side events taking place at the Intercontinental Hotel (where I ordered the best cup of coffee). These events are so important for meeting influential people and networking. We were also able to take a quick picture with the Director General while she was “rollerskating” through the hallway. It was so wonderful witnessing her actions at her last WHA before her term ends. She is so sweet and such an inspirational woman.

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We had numerous meetings with people who were kind enough to give us some time out of their busy schedules. Other people that we met with include Douglas Webb, Paul Chenoweth, Aaron Emmel, Mike Splaine, Cary Adams, Ariella Rojhani, and Dr. Peter Ngatia. They all gave us insights into their lives and spoke of their real-life experiences in the global health field.

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This information is vital at this early stage in our careers. We’ve learned so much during this first week and I look forward to all that we will learn when we visit additional NGOs, WHO and UN departments next week.


Ruya Kristal Sayim is a Master’s of Public Health student at USC.

The USC Institute for Global Health organizes an annual trip to the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the course “Global Health Governance & Diplomacy in Practice in Geneva at the World Health Assembly.”  This year, a group of 12 students are  embedded as delegates to NCD Alliance members at the 69th World Health Assembly May 23-28. 

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