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The Little Diplomatist--Summary of the 45th APACPH Volunteer Work
2013-12-09

TheLittle Diplomatist

Summary of the 45th APACPH Volunteer Work

[Author: Shangzhi Xiong, Global Health Undergraduate 2012’, Wuhan University]

The opportunity to participate in the 45thConference of the Asia-Pacific Consortium of Public Health definitely ranks among my most treasured college experiences so far. As part of the first group of global health students in our country, my classmates and I were undoubtedly expected to stand at the forefront of the effort to contribute to this significant international conference. Indeed, much to our pride, we fulfilled our expected role – through the endless e-mails, the constantly-changing lists, the oceans of data, and the unforgettable sleepless nights. These experiences not only demonstrated to me the cohesion of our school, but also left me savoring my new understandings of the concept and mission of global health.

There is a well-recognized phenomenon in international basketball, known as “back-to-back”, in which matches are played on consecutive days, and likely constantly switch between home ground and away. As a point of fact, globalization in economics, politics and medicine appears to be accompanied by an increasing volume of public health interflow among nations,whichthen manifests in the establishment of international organizations such as the APACPH. Various international conferences and meetings are held to facilitate this large-volume exchange of information, hosted in different countries each time. This happens to be similar to the “back-to-back” phenomenon - “home today, away tomorrow”.From this point of view, weglobal healthstudentsshould aim to build ourselves into global health diplomats.

During the early preparation for the APACPH conference, I was assigned to assist Dr Xiang Hao with the reception of the Malaysia delegation. During the conference itself, I was honored to assist Prof. Wang Suqing with the arrangements of the workshop and a few symposiums. The chance to work closely with leaders and researchers working at the forefront of public health research and policy, as well as the top professors in the world, was my biggest gain from this volunteer experience.

Throughmy observation and communication with those brilliant people from all over the world, Inoticedone thing—the famous diplomatic policy referred to asseeking common points while reserving differenceswas embodied perfectly.That is to say, whereas the differences between delegates from different nations were obviously outside—from the different ways of eating, dressing, living and such; whilethere were also many fundamentalinsidesimilarities—allof usare chasingthevery commonthings.

Firstly, the pursuance of higher standards in health was common for all those present. Although attending the conferencein Wuhancertainlyofferedthe delegatesan opportunity to sightsee,they didnot mistake theirtrue purposes– to further their knowledge and increase their future contribution and improvement to health in a national and global context. These all come with the exchange and spread of the most updated information.

Secondly, the cultural respect given by other nations. As global health students and later as global health workers, what we will be facing is more than simply people living in a different location. We will instead face foreign cultures. For example, during the conference, one delegate from Indonesia showed her appreciation to me for our preparation of the halal food and vegetarian food. And I replied her by saying that was simply within our responsibility. In my opinion, the determinant of success for an international conference should largely be the respect and care that the participators feel fromorganizers. And we made the most of it.

Thirdly, the long-term co-operative relationships established through mutual respect. To my knowledge, there were several universities that signed long-term co-operation agreements with us right after the conference. Academically speaking, it was another breakthrough; from the perspective of international co-operation, it was also a dramatic success.

To conclude, in the field of public health, all medical workers generally work towards the same goal—to promote good health globally. Hence,respect, trust and cooperation should be adopted asthecore values,in order to eliminate our weaknesses, strengthen our advantages, and to address public health challenges co-operatively,thus benefiting greater numbers of people internationally.

My deepest gratitude definitely goes to our school, that gave us the opportunity to be the first group of global health students, and that involved us in this remarkably successful international conference. Nevertheless, to further improve in our mission to promote global health and for a brighter future in global health field, we still have a long way to go.

In future international exchange programs, or even during our future careers in global health, I believewe should always remind ourselves that:

“I am a student of public health, and also a little diplomat.”

(me and APAPCH Secretary-General Prof. Walter Patrick)

(me and China Medical Board President Dr. Lincoln Chen)

(me, Prof. McNeely and Prof. Colby from University of Tennessee)

(me and Roz, another volunteer from Malaysia)

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