This post was written by Anna Tordjmann, a 2016 candidate for the Global Health Law LL.M. at Georgetown Law. The views presented here are her own. Any questions or comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a candidate in the Global Health Law LL.M at Georgetown Law, and I received the unique chance to attend Doctor Margaret Chan’s lecture on Global Health’s 21st Century Challenge as well as meeting her for a more private conversation.
During her lecture, Doctor Chan addressed three main subjects. She started out her speech by giving a general overview of the main 21st century challenges. She mentioned the very interesting issue of addiction to antibiotics and microbial resistance. While less advantaged countries suffer from the underuse of antibiotics, wealthy countries are facing the opposite issue: the overuse of antibiotics is progressively leading to a microbial resistance. Governments try to address this challenge by informing the populations through ad campaigns but the use of antibiotics has not significantly decreased. This is a real threat to public health and the 21st century policies will have to take this into account.
Doctor Chan continued her lecture by advocating the benefits of global governance. She supported the efforts of the international community to ensure the protection of the right to health. She also insisted on the fact that global governance and the work of the World Health Organization could not compensate the lack of strong, functional and resilient health systems. To quote her words, she said: “No regime of global governance can manage the invisible”.
Finally, Doctor Chan was challenged on the question of Ebola as a student mentioned the critics addressed to the World Health Organization in the handling of the spread of Ebola. Doctor Chan humbly admitted that the Organization was too slow to respond to this disaster. She also said that the reason for such a delay was the lack of detection of the first symptoms of Ebola. Many individuals infected by Ebola neglected to go to the hospitals because they thought that they had a regular flu. Doctor Chan claimed that this specificity of Ebola would be born in mind whenever another infectious disease shows resistance to regular treatments or involves deaths. She promised that the World Health Organization has learned from the Ebola tragedy and would speed up response in the future. As a general conclusion, Doctor Chan invited us to “remember the people” as we think about global governance and global health policies.
After her lecture, Doctor Chan agreed to meet a small amount of students in a more private meeting. The main goal was to answer a few questions on the lecture that she had just given. Yet, what struck me the most was that Doctor Chan was genuinely interested in learning more about our curriculum, our relation to Global Health and our hopes. She asked us to introduce ourselves and she made different comments on what we were doing. She drew comparison with her own experience and she gave us meaningful pieces of advice. It was very enjoyable to see how immensely humble and kind she was. She continuously tried to make us comfortable allowing us to ask any question or to make any comment that we wanted.
At the beginning of the meeting, we were all very intimidated and a little nervous but I felt that the atmosphere in the room progressively became more relaxed and open for an inspiring conversation. Doctor Chan took time to answer several questions on various topics by providing precise and thorough analyses. She also found important to share her dedication for the Global Health cause. She gave us the motivation and the strength to get out of our comfort zones, to fight for the cause we think is important to us and to make a change.
In short, Doctor Chan can easily go from being incredibly brilliant and delivering an inspiring speech to being humble enough to meet students and wisely advise them. At the very end of the meeting, she encouraged us to find a cause to fight for; but she said: “Don’t make up your mind yet. Explore life, then settle.”
Thank you for your passion, your empathy and your wise words, Doctor Chan.
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The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.