Dechen Wangmo, Bhutan’s Minister for Health and a distinguished alumna of the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH ‘07), visited campus to speak on the topic of Bhutan’s COVID-19 response as a guest lecturer for the Global Health Seminar. The seminar is a weekly course for students in the health professional schools which aims to expose them to key issues in the field of global health. Her visit was co-sponsored by the Yale Institute for Global Health.
In the South Asian country of Bhutan, Wangmo holds the distinction of currently being the sole female cabinet minister. She was also elected in 2020 to serve as president of the 74th World Health Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization.
In her lecture, she highlighted the efficiency of Bhutan’s public health system and its agile response to the pandemic, noting that Bhutan vaccinated 94% of its population in just four days. She also highlighted the strong connections between Bhutan and Yale.
Wangmo elaborated on Bhutan’s comprehensive COVID-19 response strategy, which revolved around four key pillars: prevention, containment, protection, and routine surveillance. She stressed the importance of consistent messaging in disease prevention efforts. She noted the containment aspect of the strategy was challenged by a shortage of healthcare professionals, particularly nurses. Wangmo explained that Bhutan creatively addressed this issue by enlisting second- and final-year health professional students to bolster their response efforts.
In her closing remarks, Wangmo outlined her goals for Bhutan’s future, emphasizing health security, social security, and economic security. Despite the absence of a medical school in Bhutan, she expressed a keen interest in working with American institutions, including Yale, to address the educational needs of Bhutanese students pursuing medical careers. Wangmo’s vision includes investing in the capacity of Bhutan’s own people, a goal that aligns with ideas for potential future collaborations with Yale.
A group of faculty members also met with Wangmo during her visit to Yale to explore ideas for future collaborations. Kasturi Gupta, Director for South Asia in Yale’s Office of International Affairs, described the discussion, saying “We are excited about the potential for a number of faculty-led collaborations between Yale and Bhutan that would enhance the university’s presence on the Indian subcontinent.”
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