For the head of Doctors Without Borders, impatience is a virtue

With little fanfare earlier this summer Doctors Without Borders humanitarian group did something he had never done before. He was reelected international president.

Dr. Joanne Liu , a 50-year-old French Canadian who practices pediatric emergency medicine, had seen his first three-year term genius, subsumed by the civil war in Syria and West Africa Ebola outbreak .

I was tempted to seek a second term :. To continue working on the refugee crisis, ensure that the world learns the lessons of the crisis of Ebola, and improve access to health care for people in need

However, given the difficult domestic policy MSF – the acronym is derived from the French version of Nobel Peace prize winner the name of the organization – that could muster the two-thirds vote to keep the work

After a crash course in the leadership – in the form of “Game of Thrones” – Liu threw his hat in It was undisputed


Liu recently had a few days rest in Montreal, where he still works occasional shifts in Sainte- Justine a children’s hospital affiliated to the University of Montreal. STAT spoke to her by phone from there; the transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

being reelected

Congratulations. Is it true that this is the first time a president of MSF International has been elected for a second term?

This is the first time someone was seeking a second term.

Why is that?

I’m not sure. I think most of my predecessors, some of them just say it was a bit “sufficient” after the kind of breakneck pace. I think with such posts higher working … that if you take, you agree that somehow set aside part of his personal life.

My impression is that MSF is so hard on his leadership as it is in people outside that is critical.

That’s an understatement.

What do you mean?

There is a strong tradition of debates on MSF, and there is a tradition of deconstruction arguments. It’s a bit like a “game of thrones.”

you see Game of Thrones?

never used to see it. But someone gave me the first season and said. “You need to be careful that if you want to go to a second term”

That’s hilarious. But it is also probably good advice. What do you think?

I think “like” would be a big word.

You mentioned that his first term was overcome emergencies. Ebola outbreak in West Africa began shortly after taking office. That must have been a baptism of fire?

When it began, in late 2013, was full-swing Syria. One of the things I did was I went to Syria to work as a doctor for a few weeks. It was more or less covert. People do not know me. It was a great mission. We were still having international teams [in Syria] back then. … It allowed me to understand the daily reality of people.

One of the great tips [pieces of] I have before I got the job was “Do not talk about something you do not know.”

To be a credible speaker at anything, you have to be there.

Thus Syria and then Ebola . You were telling the world: This is a much worse situation than you are recognizing. The world needs to respond now. The publicly chastised Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization. It has been asked to address the UN. What kind of relationships made this up for you with outside organizations?

I believe that Ebola has been a game changer worldwide. Because I think the Ebola intertwined with the health safety of a very graphic and understandable to the public generally.

So that is the legacy of Ebola and we will have to deal with it.

We [MSF] have been [responding to] Ebola decades. But really from the beginning, we knew this was different.

But we could not find the words and find the argument that people understand that was different. And we, like everyone, we were a little cheated when there was this pause in the number of cases in April [2014], when everyone went underground.

In late May, we knew we had a serious problem.

Yet it was not until early August before the WHO declared a global health emergency. My impression is that you are a person who is impatient in the best way. How the sense that it does?

I do not think it makes sense.

I am a person who declares when I was in my 30 years that impatience was not a drawback. When I think of all my colleagues in Sainte-Justine working in the emergency room, I think that’s a common denominator – a certain impatience. If you are not impatient, you not get things in a timely manner for patients.

I believe in the system, per se, I think this is why the world was surprised, so … that in terms of international governance, we realized that [WHO] is not ready for this purpose , which means it is not suitable to save lives.

After Ebola, people said: We must be able to respond to global biological threat, a global pandemic in a timely manner to prevent what is preventable. But then what happens is, as it moves away from the trauma of the event, people forget.

This is where we are now.

WHO will be choosing a new CEO next year. Do you think that could be an opportunity to focus on fixing the problems?

would be a shame not do that.

They must have a plan to correct some things and be ready to fight that battle. I think it’s very, very important that the WHO itself correct position and be ready to put patients and the fate of patients right at the core.

is a bit like 25 years ago when we began to report medical errors. Oh my God. You could put in a report and everyone would be looking at you, and I had to go and stand during rounds of morbidity and mortality. And I really thought you were the pariah of the hospital.

Today is the basics. Everyone understands that has to happen. … We must learn from our mistakes and we have to fix what was propitious for the error occurs.

We have to do a large scale to the world.

I know there were people who were waiting would run for the job of director general of the WHO. I consider that?

I think I have a job to finish MSF.

Does that mean that you could consider that in the way?

see where life takes us.

I just think that you need political courage to get that kind of job. And he’ll be there, I hope to have the political courage to do so.

His only agenda should be the health of people. And if the next leader must then maybe we could get elsewhere.

Do you think the world community really wants a strong WHO?

Oh, that’s another matter. (Laughter)

One can speak of air strikes in hospitals, because it must be worrying you and your organization? It seems that every few weeks we are hearing about a field hospital being hit and civilian patients and medical personnel who were killed.

The Security Council of the UN adopted a resolution even in May, reminding states that under international law, they are required to protect doctors and aid workers. But it contained no new sanctions and strikes have taken place since. What can be done?

I believe that much can be done.

We decided to take a very, very strong position after the attack in Kunduz [Afghanistan, on Oct. 3, 2015], but having said that, we had a project called “medical care under fire” for several years. … We’ve been basically doing an inventory and keep a log book in all attacks.

The reality is that we have the figures before they gave us a benchmark. Everyone says, “It’s more ..” … I can not say more, but it is happening and we do not want this to be the new trend and the new standard

Everyone you know that there are rules of war. And people are aware of the Geneva Convention – international humanitarian law. But why do we have this kind of disrespect for what used to be an exclusion zone? I think it’s because we are fighting a war without limits today.

For Syria, if you go and look back, right from the beginning, civilians were not preserved. And so doctors have been targeted assets, right from the start. It was part of a strategy.

We have always accepted that there was humanity in wars and they were trying to save civilians.

I think we need to safeguard that part of humanity – our shared common humanity. That is why it was important to pass the Security Council of the UN [resolution] for us – although I do not think it will change much unless it is implemented … the permanent countries of the Security Council of the UN, as four of them are a part of the coalition that is bombarding hospitals.

The reality is that to prevent complete impunity. It’s the only thing we have -. Pointing fingers and avoiding impunity

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