Global Healthcare During COVID

Hi! My name is Julia and I am the Selection, Preparation and Reintegration Manager of the Medicine Project. Roel Hulsman (the SPR Manager of the Health Project) and I created the Global Health Cycle to keep our exchange participants engaged with AIESEC in times of COVID. Another task of ours is finding a shorter name for our function. No luck so far.


AIESEC is, in its essence, 1) a leadership organisation, 2) that provides cross-cultural exchanges. COVID-19 shut down the latter as we know it. Our challenge was to host it on zoom.

“Well, there is not much exchange management for you to focus on these coming six months”, I remember my Vice President telling me during the first weekend I occupied my function. Cue heart attack (thanks, Emma). AIESEC’s operations flat lined, and with my job being national operations, my function changed dramatically. We needed something else. I needed something else. Something to offer our exchange participants, while they were waiting for borders to open.

Over the past few months, the national teams of the Health Project and the Medicine Project have found a way to offer cross-cultural experiences, in the form of the Global Health Cycle: monthly seminars, hosted by professionals in the field of global health. The ‘Cycle’ itself, refers to the four Leadership Development Qualities. Each session is connected to one of the four, meaning that four sessions complete the cycle.

Our fourth and last edition was hosted by Dr. Evelyn Brakema. She discussed how her international work experience made her realise the importance of sustainability in health care. As a non-medical student, I never once considered how much waste and emissions hospitals produce. ‘What do you actually know about the production processes of medication?’ Of course, this is all out of care for the patients. However, shouldn’t the promise of doctors, primum non nocere (first, do no harm) not extend to the vicious effects climate change has on our health? There should be better ways, right? I know I am not the only person who has been thinking about this topic ever since.

The Global Health Cycle showed how powerful networks are. Every single one of the speakers, we acquired via our network or those of other AIESECers, from founders of hospitals in Africa to leading persons in international healthcare projects. Our speakers tell us about their career: how they started out, the change they make on a daily basis, and their most impactful, personal moments. Moreover, they talk about what they stand for, whether that is giving people their actual eye sight back or the importance of COVID in promoting sustainable healthcare practices.

That is why I also want to dedicate this space to our speakers, for educating us and changing perspectives. Meggy Verputten from Doctors Without Borders, who shows true world citizenship. Bea Schipper, the epitome of being solution-oriented. George de Jong, whose self-awareness has saved lives. And Evelyn Brakema, who empowers others through educating about the most pressing problem of all. As I write this, it has been two weeks since our last event. While we, as Generation 20-21, discontinued the Global Health Cycle, we hope our successors will resume the sessions this time next year. Hopefully, their reason for implementing it will be something other than COVID.

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