Written by Svetlana Dotsenko
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Margaret Chan is the Director-General of the World Health Organization. Chan has previously served as Director of Health of Hong Kong Government (1994-2003), representative of the WHO Director-General for Pandemic Influenza and WHO Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases (2003-2006).
What determines success at the organization such as the WHO?
Have a thick skin. You must to stay true to your goals and not get pulled into many different directions by different interest groups.
Of course as a professional, you must have technical competence and have to know what you're doing. You have to adhere to the highest standards of medical science, medical evidence, to make the best decisions. You have to stay neutral and true to science and your professional training.
Of course the problem is that you have to make decisions based on insufficient information, and you must make the best possible decisions. This is when you are pulled into many different directions by different interest groups, and you must stay neutral to your principles and to the highest standards of medical evidence.
The second most important rule of success in the organization such as the World Health Organization is to be politically savvy. At the WHO, I am responsible to the countries for making the best decision. At the same time, countries are pulling us into many different directions. I must stay true to the technical competence and to the highest standards of science.
Oh, and when it comes to you as a person, of course you can be a real person. You can cry. I was called the "crying DG" because I always had my family near me that was always supporting me. I followed my husband to his studies in Canada, and he has supported me emotionally ever since. Families matter a great deal, and provide emotional relief that you need at a place like this.