Students & Campus
28 March 2023

Institute Students Win Big at 2023 Global Model WHO

From February 10-19, three interdisciplinary master students specialising in Global Health participated in the first Global Model WHO, a global, authentic, student-led simulation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Assembly (WHA). Two students were awarded Diplomacy Awards, one an honorable mention and as a whole, the Institute won Best Small University Delegation.

Zhiye Yang, Erika Shinabargar and Ryan Abraham served as model delegates from WHO member states, and discussed the future path for achieving Universal Health Coverage worldwide. 

“This Model WHA was a stage for us, the ‘global health crew’, as we nicknamed ourselves, to shine, and to put what we learned in class into practice”, explained Zhiye, who won a Diplomacy Award for her work as delegate from the Kingdom of Thailand. “The Institute offered us the opportunity to participate as a delegation and fully prepared us long before the actual Model WHA began”.

The theme for the conference was directing universal health coverage towards primary healthcare. Together, all the delegates representing different countries drafted a resolution related to this topic.

“The materials taught by the different professors, such as Visiting Professor David Evan's class on Health Financing Fundamentals, played a crucial role in familiarizing us with universal health coverage”, said Zhiye. “This gave us a natural advantage on the theme of the forum. Additionally, student-led preparatory sessions helped prepare us for what to expect and how to best debate in the WHA setting”.

From Ryan’s perspective, the Global Model WHO “was the most realistic simulation of the WHA out of any model UNs I’ve been to”. It provided “an excellent way for people to learn about the issues of states from which they do not necessarily belong”. Ryan also received a Diplomacy Award for his work as a delegate from Brazil. 

“As I am interested in the policymaking and policy guidance aspect of global health, it gave me the opportunity to grasp the real situation surrounding global health governance, rather than only studying them in books or lectures”, recounted Erika of her experience. She received an honorable mention for her work at the closing plenary. 

At the end of the conference, the students came away with skills in the art of negotiation and compromise between states, teambuilding, and exposure to the process of the World Health Assembly. Together, the Geneva Graduate Institute team earned the Delegation Award as the Best Small University Delegation. 

Of her experience, Zhiye recounted, “I met many nice people, not only delegates, but also chairs (WFUNA staff) and academic consultants. Second, I regained the joy of participation as a ‘diplomat’ in an ‘international conference’, doing public speaking and making trade-offs of national interests. I’m also more confident about my choice of specialisation - the field of global health is definintely worth my delving into”. 

The Global Model WHO was organised by the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) in collaboration with WHO and took place virtually. 

At the opening of the event, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said “We started this as a way of engaging young people from diverse backgrounds in a wide range of global health issues, and to generate new ideas and new ways of solving problems. We also hope it will interest you in pursuing a career in global health, and give you some of the tools and networks to move towards that goal.”

Learn more about this year’s Virtual Conference. 

Photo credit: World Health Organization


The Geneva Graduate Institute wins the award for Best Small University Delegation.
Zhiye and Ryan receive their Diplomacy Awards.