Friday, May 29, 2009

Awards Banquet

The Global Health Council's 2009 Awards Banquet was held last night. As an insider, it was amazing to see how everything has come together to create such a huge gathering of people from around the world. As I stood by the front doors I was shocked to look around at everything in the Regency ballroom - the decorations, the sheer numbers of chairs and tables, and the enormous stage - it all came crashing down upon me. A staff of 45 people organized an event so gigantic and so important. It was amazing!!

After ushering people in to their seats, helping them if they did not know where they were supposed to be seated, I was able to sit down for dinner and enjoy the awards banquet. I sat and discussed global health with others at my table, and listened in quiet awe of the award winners. The work they have done has made such tangible and enormous impact around the world and in their home countries. Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo spoke emotionally of those who he believed were more deserving of the award he received, (The Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights) and of those who made his work and that of others possible. He has worked tirelessly to help beleaguered colleagues in Zimbabwe's collapsed health sector; and has provided medical and legal documentation and care for victims of state torture in Zimbabwe. His defiance of Robert Mugabe's policies and actions is inspiring and amazing. I had tears in my eyes.

The Award for Best Practices in Global Health was presented to Dr. Harshad Sanghvi, whose work in Kenya, Indonesia, Nepal and Afghanistan focuses on providing post-partem hemorrhaging medicines to women and midwives in rural areas that have no access to doctors. In his speech, he discussed the role that we all play in helping the world to be a better place, saying, "We create change because the current situation regarding the very high mortality and morbidity in developing nations, combined with the inequity in access to health care between poor and rich people is just not acceptable in civilized nations." I don't think anyone could have said what we do, and what we aim to do, better than he did.

And finally, the Gates Award for Global Health was awarded to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for the more than 100 years of education and awareness that they have provided to thousands of graduates in more than 140 countries around the world. Truly a global organization, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was recognized for its dedication to combating tropical diseases and improving hygiene in the world, and for its off campus program in which students around the world can become educated without having to study in London. The one million dollar grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation will help to improve their ability to educate and create change around the world.

It was an amazing evening, and as an intern, it was frankly humbling and inspiring to see all these amazing individuals all around and to hear such stories of bravery and selflessness. Music was provided by the amazing band, Nation Beat, an outfit of musicians from the Southern United States and Brazil. It was fun music, great food, and inspiration all around as the evening came to an end!

- Geoff Calver