18 May 2016

Faces of UNICEF: Surenchimeg Vanchinkhuu, Health Specialist at UNICEF Mongolia

Tell us a bit about your background?

I am a medical doctor and public health specialist by training. In 2000, I obtained my Master of Public Health degree from University of Sydney.
I began my career as emergency unit nurse at Third General Hospital in Ulaanbaatar. After that I worked as nutrition officer, external relations specialist at Ministry of Health as well as project manager at Asian Development Bank. Then in 2007, I joined UNICEF as health specialist.

What do you do?

At UNICEF, we work toward improving children’s health. We do this by supporting evidence-based, high impact interventions such as breastfeeding and early essential neonatal care. We partner with the government and local authorities to share UNICEF’s international practice and experience.

Describe your job in three words

Interesting, Results-based and Fun!

Describe your average working day.

First thing I do in the mornings is to check my emails, then I work on various policy documents and reports. During my lunch hours, I like to eat outside and take a short stroll. It helps me clear my mind. Then in the afternoon, I usually meet our partners.

What is the most satisfying part of your job?

The most satisfying part is when I see that a poor family receive essential health care services and their child survives, or gets healthy. Those moments make me very happy.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

Starting new initiative is always a challenge. You need to invest your time to educate yourself first, then advocate partners and stakeholders, consider risks of implementation and mitigate them in order to prevent failures. It takes long time sometimes, and coordination can be challenging.

What’s your best UNICEF experience/memory?

In 2010, there was a dzud (severe winter) emergency and UNICEF was delivering supplies to the affected families in rural provinces. We went to Arkhangai province to monitor distribution of supplies of essential medicines. The nearby villages had collected their supplies. But remote villages had no fuel to get the supplies. They have used up their fuel for emergency health care provision due to dzud disaster.  So we went one of those remote villages with supplies. When we met the village hospital doctor, he was so happy to receive the medicines and essential items including midwifery kits because he told us that there was nothing left due to excess morbidity during dzud, and he was not unable to help anyone. In that moment, I realized how significant is our aid to save mothers and children living in remote areas.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I wanted to become a writer when I was little. I was a very imaginative child. Then when I started learning chemistry and physics at high school, I became very fascinated with natural science. That’s when I decided to become a doctor.

What advice would you give others who are seeking a similar job as yours?

You need to keep on working hard towards result. Sometimes you feel like what you are doing is not enough. It takes a long time to make a change in policy and people’s behavior. However, when I see that the child mortality drops, and children’s health improves, I understand that even though it takes time, our work really makes a difference. In short, patience and perseverance is important.
Also, you should always strive to develop yourself. Learn latest advancements in your field, because globally people are finding more and more innovative solutions on child health and nutrition issues.

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