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International Thought Leaders in Diplomacy and Global Health

Last week the Institute was privileged to host two world-class thought leaders in one day. His Excellency Antony Phillipson, former British High Commissioner to Singapore and current British High Commissioner to South Africa, shared insights on global politics with our Sixth Form and Model United Nations (MUN) students.  

The audience was fascinated to hear about the inner workings of the Foreign Office, the challenges of being a diplomat and the types of programmes that various UK departments collaborate on with other countries to exchange expertise, training and improve relations between the UK and the world. His Excellency addressed questions on different parliamentary and democratic governments around the world, international trade forums and his passion for working in public policy across many different roles in government. 

His visit was followed by Dr Soumya Swaminathan, former chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), who has had a remarkable career developing research into tuberculosis and HIV. During the COVID pandemic she was a prominent figure at the regular WHO press conferences, and she spoke at Tanglin about the hope that kept her going through those dark times.

Dr Swaminathan described her decades of work with underprivileged communities and shared how working as a student in a clinic in Calcutta had sparked a ‘light bulb’ moment that opened her eyes to the importance of medicinal research to create translational outcomes which benefit all members of society.

Dr Swaminathan now heads up the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. Originally set up by her father who was a prominent agricultural scientist, the foundation's mission is to ‘accelerate the use of modern science for sustainable agricultural and rural development’. This includes a particular focus on educating women to improve their livelihoods. Dr Swaminathan commented that society is moving away from an agriculture foundation, aspirations from younger members of society have changed and the work of the foundation is adapting accordingly.

A remarkable woman, scientist and policy leader, she concluded by sharing with the students her thoughts on the importance of STEM, the need for compassion and the value of behavioural sciences to help society tackle the challenges of the future.

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