Over the past three and a half years as the Executive Director of the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network, I’ve had the immense pleasure and humbling experience of working with you through our shared commitment to health and social justice worldwide. It is with bittersweet feelings that I am stepping down from my role of Executive Director this week, and will be moving on to do my doctoral studies at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. I’ll still be involved with this inspiring community, shifting to a volunteer role on the Board of Directors as the Director of Programs.
Working with all of you the various initiatives, campaigns, and programs YP-CDN has undertaken over the past few years has been the most fun and fulfilling experience of my professional career. So, thank you. Thank you for everything— from helping me learn from your varied and vast experiences, to masterfully recruiting and inspiring new members to actively contribute to Chapters, to asking your families and friends to donate to #MultiplyChange and YP-CDN to continue our work, to those who continuously inspire me with the sacrifices you make to deliver healthcare to rural communities in Africa and elsewhere….and, let’s not forget the epic dance-offs in Kigali and Nairobi after NextGen workshops.
When I started with YP-CDN at the beginning of 2014, we had just incorporated as an official non-profit organization, had about 2,000 members online, and I had a vision to grow active grassroots Chapters that would provide platforms for local advocacy so urgently needed on NCDs—driven by the next generation. I was, and I remain convinced that YP-CDN has an unmatched power and ability to create change for health when you marry the local to the global influence, first sparked by our founder Sunny Kishore and other early shapers of the network (you know who you are!). Now, we have over 7,000 members online that we have engaged regularly through our various social media channels, webinars, YP Speaks sessions and town halls, twitter campaigns, as well as surveys and consultations to deliver the diverse global voices of young people and those directly affected by NCDs to government, UN, and WHO representatives.
Our efforts have resulted in tangible global policy change on essential medicines and on the training and engagement of youth on NCD policy and interventions. We launched our first flagship program with ‘NextGen Leaders on NCDs’ that offers to fill the gaps on human capital and strong leadership to improve NCD research, policy and advocacy in low- and middle-income countries. We’ve grown 13 active grassroots advocacy Chapters (shout-outs to those working so hard in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States!), who have played a big role in changing U.S. State legislation to promote access to affordable medicines, created patient support groups where none existed in Kenya, forged new partnerships with ministries of health to have their say in national policy across several countries, fought to protect the soda tax (successfully!) against industry interference in Mexico, made national news fighting for radiotherapy access (successfully! The machine has arrived in Uganda), and many other initiatives that have surely improved the lives of others.
My point is that none of this growth would have been possible without you-- the Executive Team, Board of Directors, Chapters, members, and supporters. And regardless of what I write to you here, my gratitude will be greater than words will convey.
Finally, I want to thank our Founder/Board President, Sunny Kishore. Every idealist's wildest dream is to change the world with their ideas, and I believe you've done just that. You've inspired all of us with your brilliance, values, and passion.
NCDs are a clunky name and complex topic to tackle. But for all of us, they more than that: NCDs are deeply personal. I am so fortunate to have worked with you to build a community that is just as passionate about addressing these issues as I am. Together, we have continuously fostered a culture of shared purpose and peer-to-peer support, creating opportunities for each other to grow in our careers and our abilities to create positive impact through our various global and local initiatives.
To carry on this culture and focus on people as change agents, we’ve brought in Michelle Cochrane (a fellow Canadian) as Program Manager to lead our NextGen Leaders program and other exciting global NCD initiatives, thanks the support from RTI International and the NCD Alliance. Erin Little, one of our Board Directors, is transitioning to YP-CDN’s Interim Executive Director, with support from Sunny Kishore, Ariella Rojhani, and myself on the board.
When I first started in this role, Sunny told me: “In life there are two kinds of people; thermometers – those who passively describe a state of injustice; and the thermostats, those who actively seek to redress it.” I look forward to the next great chapter for YP-CDN, because I know you are all thermostats. And the world needs thermostats with moral courage to take on the NCD challenges that lie ahead.
With warm wishes and in solidarity,
Please do not hesitate to reach out to myself, Erin or Michelle with any questions you might have. firstname.lastname@example.org