Human Genetics programme

Meet our past interns

Ehrine Manzana (June - August 2007)

E-mail: ehrine.manzana@gmail.com

About Me

I am from the island of Guam. For my undergraduate work, I attended the University of Chicago where I received my BA with honors in the Biological Sciences with a Specialization in Neuroscience. Following graduation, I worked in the biotech industry and taught chemistry to premedical students. Currently, I am a rising second-year medical student at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), where I am interested in studying craniofacial anomalies/plastic surgery (the basis of my study here at WHO). My internship was funded by the Dean's Research Fellowship at UCSF.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

My internship at WHO spanned two months and was under the direct supervision of Dr. Victor Boulyjenkov. The principal focus of my internship involved a study of the health burden of cleft lip and/or cleft palate (CL/P) in Africa. This research project required extensive literature reviews of available data on CL/P in an area of the world that is largely understudied with respect to craniofacial anomalies (CFA). Moreover, I collaborated with a number of key professionals in the field and reviewed working papers to assist in my study. In addition to my research project, I also worked on the updating and maintenance of the Genomic Resource Centre website, particularly in the following areas: Resources for Health Professionals, Policymakers, and Patients/Public; Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of Human Genomics; and Research.

Further Comments

My experience as a WHO/HGN intern was nothing short of amazing. I particularly enjoyed the opportunities to learn from and work with individuals of quite a variety of backgrounds. I also appreciated the independence afforded to me in tackling the questions that revolved around my research project on CFA. Moreover, Dr. Boulyjenkov was a wonderful guide, resource, and supervisor! With my background in basic science research, it was certainly a refreshing change to be able to approach questions in medicine from a public health standpoint and on a global scale. The notion that one could attend seminars and professional talks at the UN, UNHCR, ILO, ITC, UNECE, UNCTAD, etc., is a testament to the quality of learning offered by this organization. In addition to these talks, I was able to attend meetings concerning international health policy, the WHO response to the SARS situation, the Global Tobacco Control project, and the UNAIDS approach to estimating HIV prevalence in the world. I am thankful to members of the WHO intern network, the NMH staff, and Victor for providing me with this opportunity and for their endless support and guidance during my stay in Geneva!


Katherine Adlington (May - June 2007)

E-mail: katherineadlington@gmail.com

About me

I am from London, England. I completed my undergraduate studies last year at Oxford University where I received a BA Honours degree in Human Sciences. I am going on to study Graduate Medicine (MBBS Professional Entry Programme) this September at King's College, London.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

During my seven weeks here at the Human Genetics Programme, I worked in updating various sections of the Genomic Resource Centre. My main focus was on the development of the Craniofacial Anomalies section of the site. This involved communicating with our various collaborating centres and gathering data to format and display on the International Database on Craniofacial Anomalies. I had to partake in extensive research to find relevant articles to update the site. I engaged in discourse with various experts in the CFA field to enable development of the patient-focused section of the site.

Further comments

I thoroughly enjoyed becoming involved in all aspects of life at WHO. I was a regular participant at the seminars that are held almost daily by different departments. I was also very lucky that my internship coincided with the 60th World Health Assembly in May so that I could attend some of the sessions. I attended training sessions for HIV/AIDs in the workplace and on Health and Human Rights. I even attended a weekly lunchtime Shiatsu lesson. The experience has given me a thorough understanding of the internal workings of an international organisation, and a unique insight into the formation of international health policy, which will perfectly complement my future medical studies. I enjoyed being a part of such a diverse and interesting intern community, which livened up my Genevan social life no end. I would like to thank the HGN team (Victor) for being so supportive and giving me such a fantastic opportunity.


Adam Henschke (January - April 06)

E-mail: adamhenschke@gmail.com

About me

I am an Australian who received a fellowship through Monash University (Melbourne Australia) and WHO’s Human Genetics. My background is in genetics and science and completed a master of Bioethics last year.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

My main role while working with HGN was to research and draft a report on the ELSI associated with Pharmacogenomics. As well this central project, I contributed information and advice on the ELSI Red, and on the GRC.


Marc Toppings (May-July 05)

E-mail: MarcToppings@osgoode.yorku.ca

About me

I am from Toronto, Canada where I am currently studying law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. I previously completed a BSc at Queen's University, Kingston, in Life Sciences and a MSc at McGill University, Montreal, in Human Genetics. I am very interested in combining my backgrounds in genetics and law in the formulation of international health policy.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

During my internship I worked on a range of projects and enjoyed considerable independence in my research. My principal focus was the preparation of a report on the ELSI of Gender and Genetics for publication on the Genomic Resource Centre. I hope to submit a longer version of this report to a peer-reviewed academic journal. I also prepared a short background paper on one potential angle for the planned WHO report on the ELSI of Pharmacogenomics. I updated the list of contacts in the ELSI global network, particularly with respect to health law and pharmacogenomics, and drafted a letter to be distributed to these experts. I assisted my supervisor by reference checking the major HGN report Medical Genetic Services in Developing Countries: The ELSI of Genetic Testing and Screening. Finally, I compiled a list of international agencies as well as governmental bodies that deal with intellectual property and trade to which the HGN report Genetics, Genomics and the Patenting of DNA will be distributed.

Further Comments

My internship with HGN presented an amazing opportunity to observe first-hand the day-to-day operations of an international organization. I was fortunate to be able to attend plenary sessions of the World Health Assembly as well as meetings of the Executive Board. I also enjoyed being a participant at monthly WHO Ethics Council meetings. These opportunities to observe and interact with international experts significantly contributed to my internship. My experience was greatly enhanced by the quality of my fellow interns, the generosity of the HGN team, and the breadth of background and experience among the WHO staff.


Imogen Goold (Mar - Apr & June - July 05)

About me

I am originally from Tasmania, Australia where I completed an LLB/BA and a PhD on property law and human body parts. I moved to Sydney, where I worked as a legal officer for the Australian Law Reform Commission on their reports: Essentially Yours: The Protection of Human Genetic Information and Genes and Ingenuity: Gene Patenting and Human Health. I’m now based in the UK, where I am currently completing my Masters of Bioethics at Monash University, Victoria, Australia (by correspondence) and working on my DPhil in the history of medicine at Oxford University. My internship was funded by the Monash Centre for Bioethics.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

I spent three months at the HGN, expertly supervised by Angela Ballantyne, Technical Officer Genetics & Ethics. I worked alongside Volunteer, Amy Pearn, on the WHO/HGN report on Medical Genetics Services in Developing Countries: The Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Genetic Testing and Screening. I also worked on two case studies on quality assurance in genetic testing in Australia and New Zealand, and subsequently assisted in writing up these case studies (with Amy, Angela and a previous Intern, Silvana Bettiol) into a paper that was submitted to the journal Australia and New Zealand Health Policy. Finally, I assisted with a range of other projects, such as the ELSI ReD genetics regulation database (http://www.who.int/genomics/elsi/regulatory_data/en/).

Further Comments

I had a fantastic time at the HGN, and learned a lot about the areas I worked on. I appreciated being given the freedom to work independently, while it was also great to be part of a team working on report from the early stages right through to completion. WHO is a wonderful place to intern. I also had the opportunity to attend workshops and seminars, including a workshop on health and human rights, as well as Ethics Council meetings. The culture is friendly and very stimulating, while Geneva is lots of fun. My team were always fantastic, entertaining and supportive to work with.


Amy Pearn (Apr-May 05)

E-mail: apearn@tricolour.queensu.ca

About me

Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I have also lived in Bolivia, Ireland, and Australia. After completing my B.Sc.H. in Biochemistry at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, I continued my studies with a Masters of Genetic Counselling at the University of Newcastle, Australia. I am currently living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia, and hope to write the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors certification exam in 2007.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

I have been with the HGN for two months, April-May 2005. Under the expert supervision of Angela Ballentyne, and in collaboration with Imogen Goold, I have been working on the HGN report on Medical Genetic Services in Developing Countries: The Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Genetic Testing and Screening. This is the second paper in a series that began with Genetics, Genomics and the Patenting of DNA, and will continue with a report on Pharmacogenomics. Also with Imogen, I have completed development of two case studies on the Quality and Safety of Genetic Testing, for Australia and New Zealand respectively, for the Genomics Resource Centre (GRC) website. In collaboration with another past-intern, Silvana Bettiol, we are hoping to develop these case studies into a review to be published in Australia & New Zealand Health Policy.

Further Comments

My internship with the HGN has been a wonderful experience for me, above and beyond getting to see Geneva in the springtime! It was great to be a part of such a diverse team; coming from such a specialized background as genetic counselling, it has been really interesting to have discussions with people from other specialties and backgrounds. I was really happy with the degree of independence I had to work within the project, and I feel that my skills and experience have been well used. It was also very interesting for me to get a developing-country view on the genetic services that I came to see as standard during my training. It was also interesting to research the structure and limitations of those services in developed countries, and more specifically in Australia (where I trained). I have learnt a great deal during my time here, and have really enjoyed being a part of this team. Thanks!


Vasanth K. Sriram (May-Jun 04)

E-mail: vasanth.sriram@cornell.edu

Sriram Vasanth

About me

I will be a part of Cornell University’s Class of 2004 from the College of Arts and Sciences. My interests are on opposite ends of the spectrum, thus I have chosen two fields of specialization during my undergraduate education: Biological Sciences and Linguistics, both which I love with a passion. I hope to attain my M.D. and become a Professor in the future. If all goes well, I hope to return once again to the World Health Organization.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

During my six weeks here at the Human Genetics Programme, I worked in developing two sections of the Genomic Resource Centre. The first section was the Health Professionals Resources section, which included a Best Practices section, highlighting exemplary practices in the application of genomics to medicine in various parts of the world. This feature is to serve as an example for other countries with a burgeoning genetics field. The HP section also included developing an expert panel, allowing me to be acquainted with experts all over the world and their work. The other primary section was the Patient and Public Resources section, which included resources for the lay individual, providing them with insights into the world of genomics, an exposure many people do not have. Much of my work entailed extensive research, organizing information, and presenting in a written form for the web site in a form which we felt most appropriate.

Further Comments

My internship here has been an absolutely amazing experience! I have gained a new interest in genomics, and have loved my work and the opportunity to contribute to the world on a large scale by assisting in developing this comprehensive web site. The staff and interns I have met here were truly amazing, and I look forward to crossing paths with everyone once again in the future.


Mark Michalski (Apr-Jun 04)

E-mail:mmichalski@stanford.edu

About me

I’m a recent graduate from UCLA with an undergraduate degree in Cybernetics, and will be attending medical school this fall at Stanford University. During my time at UCLA, I became interested in healthcare policy and the opportunities and hurdles that medical science advancements presented policy makers. I spent six weeks as an intern for the Human Genetics Programme (HGN) to get better acquainted with these issues.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

I did preliminary research into the topic of quality control and quality assurance in genetic testing. While the number of types of genetic tests as well as the usage of these tests is increasing, there are often gaps in the quality regulation of these tests. Because genetic tests can have huge impacts on the lives of the patient and his or her family, its vitally important regulation ensures that these tests are both safe and effective. To explore current regulation (and current regulatory shortfalls), I researched current means of maintaining quality in testing, and those responsible for developing and upholding regulations and guidelines. This research culminated in a report that will become a part of the Genomics Resource Centre (GRC).

Further Comments

I was very happy with my experience at the World Health Organization. Having come from a more science-focused background, my time at WHO really helped me become familiar with issues on the ethical, social and legal level, which I believe will be valuable assets as continue my studies. Additionally, there were innumerable intangible lessons learned being in an environment like WHO, and I can’t imagine those heading HGN being any more supportive than they were. It was definitely time well spent!


Sigrid Dräger (Mar-Apr 04)

Sigrid Dräger

E-mail: sdrager@gmx.net

About me

  • Born in Lübeck, Germany
  • 3 years training course for a registered nurse
  • At present studying health economy at the University of Bayreuth, Germany

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

My internship at HGN was from 3 March 2003 to 11 April 2003. As a main task with the human genetics programme I assisted with the development of the Genomic Resource Centre. First a comprehensive design document had to be created for the kick-off of this exciting project. Then, I got started on writing some of the pages which included a lot of research and which got me in touch with the whole range of issues related to genomics.I was also happy to learn more about WHO as an international organisation as I was offered the opportunity to join various meetings and courses.

Further Comments

I was amazed at how much I felt like a full member of the team from my very first day at WHO. I was able to work independently, but received close feedback contact not only from my supervisor but actually the whole team. I really enjoyed that a lot, because I like working as part of a team! It was also very special for me to experience the companionship of interns at the WHO. You get to know people from all over the world and we enjoyed lots of fun activities, one of them being a “Lunch competition” as we tried to have a test meal in each of the most prominent international organizations. By the way: Lunch at WHO is the most healthy – surprise!


Angela Ballantyne (Dec 03- Feb 04)

E-mail: ajbal4@student.monash.edu.au or angballantyne@hotmail.com

Angela Ballantyne

About me

I am from Wellington, New Zealand. In 2001, having completed a BSc in genetics and molecular biology at Victoria University of Wellington, I moved to Melbourne and joined the Centre for Human Bioethics at Monash University. I completed my Masters Qualifying in Bioethics in 2002 and went on to pursue the Masters by Research Program. The Monash Centre for Human Bioethics provides funding to send one Masters student to HGN every December for a three-month internship. I was fortunate enough to be a recipient of this internship.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

My work at HGN related to four distinct projects. I was involved in the review of an HGN report, which examined the impact of gene patents on access to genetic technologies in the developing world. I was involved in managing the review process and revising the content of the document, and continued to be involved with this project after I left HGN. Second, I was involved in designing the model for the “ESLI ReD” database of regulatory documents relating to ELSI and genetics, and developing the Specifications Document which described this database for potential contractors. In addition I researched, and wrote summaries for, 100 regulatory documents to be stored in the database. Third, I wrote a project plan for including a Best Practices in Genetics and Genomics (PBGG) section on the Genomic Resource Centre. As part of this initiative I conducted independent research into the genomics industry in Brazil and presented this in a template form as the first entry for the GGBP section. Finally, I worked on the ‘ethics and genetics’ initiative which aims to prepare educational material for clinicians and patients in developing countries, relating to the ethical issues raised by genetics. My supervisor and I wrote a commentary, which was submitted to a medical journal for publication. I also initiated the development of an international network of people interested in the project, and background research on the topic.

Further Comments

I appreciated the diversity of projects I was given to work on, and the challenging nature of many of the tasks. In addition to my regular work I had the opportunity to attend the Global Health Research Forum, the WHO Ethics Council meetings and the Executive Board meeting. I was also grateful to be invited to participate in the Consultation on Equitable Access to Care for HIV/AIDS, sponsored by WHO and UNAIDS. I felt that these gatherings added an important aspect to my internship experience as they allowed me to interact with a diverse range of international experts.
Most importantly, however, the HGN team was a delight to work with – they were supportive, encouraging and full of surprises.


Shawneequa L. Callier (Dec 02-Feb 03)

E-mail: scallier@alumni.princeton.edu

Shawneequa Callier

About me

I am from Laurelton, New York, USA and I am a graduate of Princeton University. In July 2002, I travelled to Australia and enrolled in Monash University’s Masters of Bioethics course. Since then, many enlightening endeavours have helped me to hone my academic interests in law and bioethics, one of which was my internship experience with the Human Genetics Unit (HGN) at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is what I did during my internship at HGN

At the Human Genetics Programme, I worked on projects related to the Ethics, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) of human genetics. My tasks included collecting research on a comparative database of regulatory models and legislation addressing selected topics in ELSI in genetics, writing a preliminary strategy report for the WHO Genetics Resource Centre, and creating a database of key questions to consider in the ELSI in human genetics global survey. On all of these projects I worked independently with the help of my supervisor and the HGN team.

Further Comments

Overall my internship work, complemented by the people I encountered, made this an ideal internship experience. First, I was able to witness the extent to which my particular interests in human rights law and medical equity are intertwined. For example, by investigating current legislative and regulatory ELSI in genetics activities in various countries I gained a deeper understanding of the need for ethical and legal guidelines in developing countries. Second, I had the opportunity to attend WHO seminars, WHO Ethics Council meetings, and a meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. These activities combined with the interns and staff I met who shared personal experiences as bioethicists or volunteers in developing countries broadened my perspective and challenged me to apply the subject matter taught in my bioethics seminars. The HGN team was very supportive and actively took steps to help me to make the most of my internship experience.


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