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SUMMARY ON MY EXPERIENCE AT WHO
By Alessandra Gatti, MD
Gynaecology Resident
Campus Biomedico University of Rome

Thanks to the International Gynecologic Cancer Society and in particular to Professor Roberto Angioli, IGCS President, and Ms. Mary Eiken, IGCS CEO, I had the opportunity to work at the World Health Organization Head Quarters in Geneva for three months (October – December 2019). It was an extraordinary experience and our collaboration will continue in the following months.

I was assigned to the WHO’s Department for the Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, coordinated by Doctor Cherian Varghese from India, who was a pleasure to work with. I was sharing the office with my direct supervisor, Doctor Elena Fidarova, technical officer at the same department. Our main mission was to finish the draft for the WHO’s challenge on Cervical Cancer Elimination by the end of the year, December 2019.

Our small hard-working international team included the already mentioned Doctor Elena Fidarova, a Belarusian radiation oncologist, Doctor André Ilbawi, an American surgeon, Doctor Scott Howard, an American Pediatric Oncologist, and his wife and colleague, Doctor Catherine Lam. Other people, who had already left at the time of my arrival, had given their contribution to this important project.

 

My work started in October 2019, with a full immersion in the WHO world and publications on the research topic. After a week of orientation, I felt quite prepared for my future assignment and started to complete some missing sections of the drafted text and some appendixes. Almost every day, as soon as I had finalized my task, Doctor Fidarova was ready to review it and, on approval, integrate it into the final brochure.

It was not all about writing; we had also to participate in various departmental meetings and calls on how to proceed with the draft with a common vision. We had to reformulate a new questionnaire for WHO, tentatively titled “Assessment Tool,” which will be used to evaluate globally facilities for cervical cancer management. In addition, I found it very beneficial to have the opportunity to sketch summary grids and charts to be integrated into the final brochure. I am proud to note that I have been credited with some of the charts that have been published in another WHO project, called “Guide for Establishing a Pathology Laboratory in the Context of Cancer Control.”

Finally, on December 16, 2019, the final version of the draft “Global Strategy towards Eliminating Cervical Cancer As a Public Health Problem,” our main work, strongly supported by IGCS, was released. So far it is a 33-page document, with additional appendixes to be added upon further review. This drafted document will be discussed in the following meetings: 3-8 February, 2020, Geneva Executive Board, 146th session and 17-21 May, 2020, Geneva 73rd World Health Assembly. Other inputs will be given from an international perspective and the ultimate version, in the form of a booklet, will be finalized for publication.

After this fruitful research collaboration and important step forward, a few days before Christmas, we all said our farewells and exchanged some gifts during an Italian breakfast at the WHO canteen. I was given, among other presents, a stuffed HPV virus, to remember our teamwork and the WHO’s latest mission. It was hilarious and I will always carry that present with me, along with this extraordinary experience, which I will continue as a remote collaborator with the team from my base in Italy during the following months.

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to IGCS, Professor Roberto Angioli, Mary Eiken, and all the people who supported me, for the professional growth and experience I have gained over the last three months that I have worked at WHO.

Alessandra Gatti, MD
Gynaecology Resident
Campus Biomedico University of Rome