I am up by 6am, or earlier if my one-year-old daughter decides to wake up. I’ll quickly run through my emails and clear out my inbox before I cycle to work. I arrive at our office at around 9am, or later when possible so I can have more time with my family.
Médecins Sans Frontières’ Access Campaign is focused on overcoming three inter-related problems with the current system of medical R&D – that medical tools (drugs, vaccines and diagnostics) are unaffordable, unsuitable for the conditions where MSF operates, or are not available because of a lack of R&D for diseases that predominantly affect developing countries.
To accomplish these goals the Campaign engages a wide range of stakeholders, so it’s my job to work with colleagues around the world to analyse key policy issues, write briefs, reports and letters, conduct research, advocate before various individuals in government and industry on MSF’s key concerns and priorities, and collaborate with civil society to achieve shared goals. Because I work with a global team I spend a lot of time on the phone and email, as well as travelling around the world for meetings, although I’ve tried to cut down on the travelling.
The recent Ebola outbreak has been a major concern for us, as MSF is one of the largest treatment providers on the ground in affected areas. The lack of medical tools to address Ebola is an example of why the Access Campaign was launched, but MSF is also engaging companies, governments and scientists to identify measures that could improve or inhibit the scale-up and use of drugs and vaccines to address the outbreak.
But Ebola is just one of many medical challenges that our operation tackles every day in more than 70 countries, and my working day reflects the diversity of medical priorities and the access issues that impact use and scale-up of useful medical tools. For example, a typical day recently involved developing a legal analysis of our concerns over EU border regulations that interfere with the free movement of generic medicines from India to developing countries; reviewing a letter we’re sending to a multinational pharmaceutical company about the high price of a new TB drug used to treat multidrug-resistant TB; and overseeing MSF’s engagement for the just-completed negotiating round of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in Hanoi, which I attended in September, as we’re concerned about US demands to strengthen protection for pharmaceuticals in a range of Asia-Pacific countries.
Because Geneva is so expensive, I usually spend my lunchtime finding a sandwich that doesn’t cost more than US$20 and keeps me going until I get home in the evening. And I try to get some time alone every day away from my desk, usually by taking a walk outside to clear my head and think beyond my daily tasks so I can focus on how to solve a problem or evaluate our strategy for an area of work.
I don’t finish until around 7pm but at least twice a week I’ll leave earlier to catch my daughter before she goes to sleep, and then I’ll go back to work. Of an evening I like to spend time with my partner, read a book, or watch a movie. I’ve switched to watching English football and the Champions League, although I prefer US sports – but those come on at an ungodly hour (usually 2am) and I have to try not to react to what’s happening and wake up my family!