Mr Kapil Narain, a fifth-year Medical student at UKZN, is a recipient of the inaugural Changemaker Scholarship made possible by the World Health Organization (WHO) Alliance for Health Systems and Policy. Narain was one of four students selected globally for the scholarship. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity enabled him to attend the 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) and the IFMSA Youth Pre World Health Assembly workshop (PreWHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Narain, who is passionate about HIV research and is a Centre for the AIDS Programme of South Africa (CAPRISA) fellow, was thrilled to attend the year’s most important global health event and to benefit from extensive global health advocacy training while connecting with other young people from around the world.
‘As an inaugural Changemaker Scholarship recipient, I am truly grateful to the Alliance at WHO for providing funding and support which enabled me to attend this assembly – which is the world’s highest health policy setting body and decision making body of WHO, attended by 194 member states of the United Nations. This opportunity allowed me to interact with world leaders in health, some of whom have inspired me to significantly contribute towards improving healthcare in our society.’
Narain said that meeting Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO was a highlight. ‘Meeting the most senior official at WHO and perhaps the greatest authority on health on the globe, at the Palais des Nations (the United Nations Office in Geneva) was an ethereal experience,’ he reflected.
Tedros is the first African Director General of the WHO and previously served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Health in Ethiopia. ‘It was phenomenal having a brief discussion with Tedros on the HIV epidemic and the Ebola crisis. I will always remember his words of encouragement to me, as a passionate youth, to pursue academia and make a meaningful contribution towards improving health in society,’ said Narain.
The Changemaker Scholarship Programme is funded by the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research at WHO. The Alliance works to improve the health of those in low- and middle-income countries by supporting the generation and use of evidence that strengthens health systems. By bringing decision-makers and researchers together, it aims to identify research priorities that are responsive to countries’ needs.
Narain is keen to share his experience with fellow South African students by seeking support from the National Department of Health (NDOH). He said, ‘I hope to work with the NDOH in creating policy so a space is available for youth delegates to participate at the WHA to enable us to be cognisant, as future doctors and health professionals, of the major decisions and actions taken at an international level as well as how to navigate the labyrinthine geopolitical arena in global health. Moreover, I would like to work towards establishing policy with the NDOH so that youth voices are represented and heard at national and local meetings.’