World Health Organization (Co-Sponsored with the Harvard Global Health Institute)

Please Note: This internship is co-sponsored with the Harvard GHI; applications should be submitted through the HGHI-IOP funding source in CARAT. 

In order to be eligible for this internship, you need to have completed three years of full-time studies (i.e. be a rising senior) and be at least twenty years old by March 1, 2019.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland is the specialized agency within the United Nations (UN) that directs and coordinates international public health. In October 2004, WHO launched its Patient Safety program in an effort to coordinate, disseminate, and accelerate improvements worldwide in patient safety, which is a critical global healthcare issue. WHO’s strategic objectives in the area of patient safety are to provide global leadership for patient safety and to harness knowledge, expertise and innovation to improve patient safety in health care settings. WHO’s unique convening role at the global level provides a vehicle for improving patient safety and managing risk in health care through international collaboration, engagement and coordinated action between Member States, institutions, technical experts, patients, civil society, industry, as well as development partners and other stakeholders.

WHO’s work for improving patient safety and managing risks in health care includes global  patient safety challenge on medication safety; patient safety leadership, education and training; patient safety standards, assessments and research; global patient safety networks and partnerships; safety and quality tools and checklists (safe childbirth checklist and surgical safety checklist); reporting and learning systems; patient and family engagement including patients for patient safety; safer primary care; human factors, diagnostic safety; standardizing care processes; and patient safety solutions. 


Summer Project

This internship offers a Harvard undergraduate the opportunity to work directly in the Patient Safety and Risk Management Unit, under the supervision of the Coordinator, Dr Neelam Dhingra-Kumar. The intern will contribute to one or more projects concerning medication safety, education & training (how to create and promote multidisciplinary teams), global patient safety networks and partnerships (how to strengthen interaction among global patient safety community); monitoring and evaluating impact (WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge), safety and quality culture, and patient safety incident reporting and learning (how reporting impacts quality improvement), and heath care risk management. There is potential to continue the work after returning to campus in the fall, in conjunction with faculty at the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Responsbilities and Qualifications Include:

  • Participation in meetings, taking notes, liaising with external experts
  • Team work, respect for fellow colleagues, effective written communication


The Dates of this internship are approximately May 15 - August 18.


On a scale from 0 (very independent) to 10 (very supervised), this internship will be about a 6.

Brief description from the Summer 2017 Fellow:

“This summer, I am working in the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Unit at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. I am working on a variety of different projects, ranging from the development of an international network of stakeholders in patient safety to facilitate global collaboration to compiling and collecting national policies from all Member States. My primary project is focusing on assessing the burden of unsafe health care globally and trying to support it with the most recent data through an extensive literature review.”

Varun Varshney '19 


Geneva, Switzerland
International, Public Health, Research