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Exploring Geneva’s global health hub

28 June 2018

In March this year, Dr Simon Reid-Henry and Dr Tim Brown set off with eleven masters students on the inaugural field trip to Geneva, Switzerland. The field trip is a core module for students on the Global Health Geographies MA and is optional for those on the School of Geography’s Development and Global Health MA and for students from the School of Medicine and Dentistry taking the Migration, Culture and Global Health MSc.


Geneva field class 2018

This optionality made for a very diverse mix on the field trip, ranging from students taking time out from their work as clinicians, lawyers, or fieldworkers for health NGOs to those who had only recently completed their undergraduate studies. Our students were from all over the world too, including: Brazil, Haiti, UK, USA, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. 

The trip itself, involved a four-day stay at the John Knox Centre which is situated very close to the headquarters of the World Health Organization and within easy walking distance of the many organizations that make up Geneva’s global health hub. Working from our downtown base in the Graduate Institute Geneva – which provided space for meeting Geneva-based experts in global health as well as access to excellent library facilities – our days were organized around different themes: Global health advocacy, Health diplomacy, Health systems strengthening, Global civil society networks, Refugee health. To gain an insight into these areas, the group met with representatives of organizations working in them, including: Médecins Sans Frontières, GAVI, the Geneva Global Health Hub, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.  

Our meetings with these organizations provided crucial insights into the place of Geneva in the making of global health policy; they also provided a starting point for the student’s independent research projects which were conducted while we were in Geneva. For some, this meant spending time in the archives of the WHO to explore the making of past global health initiatives, for others interviews with people engaged in current programmes of work. Whatever the area focused on by the students, there was ample opportunity to hone their field research skills as well as to make contacts and establish networks that may be useful in their future careers. Of course, the field trip was not only about meeting global health experts or engaging them in conversation. It was also about getting to know each other better and to discuss global health issues and debates in a more informal and relaxed way.

Roshani Perera who is taking the Global Health Geography MA course said: “Before starting my masters, I did my undergraduate at QMUL Geography. I particularly enjoyed the health modules in both my 2nd and 3rd years so I wanted to explore these further by completing the Global Health Geographies masters course. I feel that taking modules from the School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD) at Queen Mary really lifts this particular programme because it enabled me to understand the relevance of a geographical lens in the field of medicine.

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