Jonathan Ng Jonathan Ng
Jonathan Ng

September- December 2015

Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at WHO
世界衛生組織日內瓦總部 (WHO)實習學生分享會 2016
None of the money: special internship opportunity

Processed meat and red meat were classified earlier as Group 1 and Group 2A carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), sparking worldwide controversy. While people in Hong Kong registered the news and began asking whether they should give up comfort foods like sausages and bacon, HKBU student Jonathan Ng was at the heart of the action at WHO headquarters in Geneva as one of the insiders.

“I was doing my internship at WHO headquarters from September to December last year when the report was released. My colleagues in WHO did in fact anticipate that the news would draw a high level of attention and had therefore made thorough preparations. As expected, once the news came out, tons of emails and enquiries flooded in asking for further elaboration on the scientific findings and the relationship between intake level and carcinogenic effects.”

Jonathan, who is studying for a master’s degree in Environmental and Public Health Management, competed against thousands of global applicants and was selected as a handful of interns in the WHO department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, helping to develop databases and learning tools to raise public awareness on food safety and the risk of foodborne diseases.

Prior to that, he worked as a registered pharmacist for over ten years after attaining his undergraduate degree in Pharmacy. “Expert knowledge is important to a pharmacist but I found that having gone deep into a particular area for a long period of time my focus area became rather niche. I want to go beyond the purely medical perspective and see things from a broader spectrum of disciplines, taking into consideration things such as climate change as well as environmental and social relationships. So, I took the master’s degree programme which enlightened me a lot. The WHO internship opportunity I got from it further brought me into the international arena. It’s an absolutely incredible experience.”

During the internship, Jonathan got the chance to speak to Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. As the former Director of Health of Hong Kong, she handled the health issues of seven million Hong Kong citizens and now, after taking the helm as Director-General of WHO in Geneva, she is responsible for managing international public health issues that affect a global population of seven billion. Though not comparable to Dr Chan, Jonathan says as a Hong Kong citizen who worked in the headquarters in Geneva, he also has some reflections. “While I was working as a pharmacist, my daily duty was to give pharmacological advice to customers. After my internship with WHO, I realised that there are a lot more world issues associated with human health and public hygiene that we should commit our attention to.”

During his three months’ stay in Geneva, Jonathan attended various seminars and meetings, including the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues. There, he listened to world leading experts who shared views on toxicology and risk assessment of pesticide residue. “Many regions and countries follow the conclusions and guidelines made by these renowned experts in the meeting. I benefited a lot by sitting in this two-week meeting, it was like I attended a series of inspiring lectures.”

To join this WHO internship programme, Jonathan had to change his postgraduate studies from full-time to part-time, which extended his study period. Nevertheless, Jonathan considers it a worthwhile tradeoff. “In Geneva, a highly international French-speaking city, I had the chance to work in a major global organisation and learn about many world health issues. Even though it only lasted a few months, the internship has broadened my horizons and helped steer my way forward.”

Source: HKBU HORIZONS/ 2015-16 Issue 2