Student’s passion over planetary health leads to moderating UN forum

YPSILANTI, MI – When Washtenaw International High School senior Emin Tsoguktas saw the need to spread the word about planetary health, he wanted to get down on the ground.

Planetary health is the study of the effects of human disruptions on the health of the environment and how this affects human health.

Soguktas’ ambition is evident in his organization of a growing list of events and forums on the subject with the United Nations, inspired by global health champions such as the late Paul Farmer, with whom he became active in middle school.

“The health equity aspect is what I want to pursue in the future,” said Soguktas, 17. “Planetary health is something that speaks very well because those who will primarily feel the impact of pandemics and health conditions that arise from climate and environmental problems will be developing countries.”

Soguktas organized and moderated a discussion on planetary health education at the United Nations General Assembly in September. WIHI Principal Nhu Do said it was an incredible achievement to be selected to host the discussion at the largest UN event.

“It has been consistent that Emin is deeply committed to addressing inequalities as it pertains to medicine, health and the well-being of people from marginalized communities,” Doe said.

Before moving to Ann Arbor when he was in eighth grade, Tsoguktas was the winner of a contest as a student in New Jersey that awarded him a trip to the United Nations Youth Forum.

The stage inspired Tsoguktas to think about his future career.

“I have always been passionate about science and medicine, but I also wanted to work in policy because my goal is to create a massive impact on the world and leave a legacy behind,” Emin said. “Policy is a tool that allows me to do much more than medicine, which has a more personal impact.”

He said the first summit Soguktas helped organize – the “Youth, COVID-19 and Informal Settlements International Summit” – was a “turning point” in his life. During the summit, he met Dr. Almazbek Beishenaliyev, who was then Kyrgyzstan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, and now serves as the Kyrgyz Republic’s Minister of Education and Science.

The meeting inspired Soguktas to reach out to Beishenaliev with a project proposal to empower medical students and young doctors in Kyrgyzstan to ensure they are democratically aware and engaged in advocacy. Tsoguktas assisted Beishenaliyev on more initiatives and was offered an official position as his volunteer personal assistant last August.

“My assistantship to the minister was very beneficial in terms of allowing me to develop these skills of organizing events and being able to moderate and write projects and develop other such skill sets,” Soguktas said.

Last April, Tsoguktas approached Bishenaliyev with a proposal to organize a session on planetary health and education at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum, an event attended by hundreds of ministers, prime ministers, presidents and leaders from around the world. . The theme focuses on the integration of planetary health into education systems globally.

Soguktas’ offer was accepted and he spent the summer in an internship organizing the July event and moderating a discussion with panelists, including Beshenaliev and Dr. Jamila Mahmud, a Malaysian physician who is executive director of the Sunway Center for Planetary Health.

Following the event, Soguktas contacted the leadership of the Planetary Health Coalition affiliated with Harvard University about meeting with the minister on planetary health education, which led to the creation of a ministerial-level initiative at the United Nations to advance planetary health education. Works to increase All over the world.

“Soguktas is a young leader who is dedicated and not afraid to sacrifice great time and effort for his ideals,” Beshenaliyev said. “She has the important quality of a leader to visualize her ideals, turn them into goals, and successfully realize them. Her communication skills are excellent, and she has been able to build and lead a team with great success.” “

All of this work led to the September event at the United Nations General Assembly, which Soguktas referred to as the “centerpiece” of his planetary health work.

Tsoguktas said that the main point of the event was the signing of an international memorandum of understanding on planetary health education, which was signed by the Planetary Health Alliance and the Ministry of Education.

“This was an important occasion for planetary health education, as it makes it official that the coalition and the ministry will be collaborating greatly on planetary health education,” Soguktas said.

Soguktas said he is now working on building on that work with the Planetary Health Alliance by organizing an international conference for university rectors and chancellors in an effort to raise awareness.

“Planetary health is an area that is growing very rapidly,” Tsoguktas said. “After the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear how environmental disruptions affect human health.”

Washtenaw International High School has been instrumental in facilitating Soguktas’ passion for health policy, allowing her to participate in national forums and events, said her father Suna Soguktas.

“WIHI has created a wonderful environment where Emin has had the opportunity to be part of a global agenda for the United Nations such as planetary health, but more importantly she has never been able to focus on community work in a local area “ heard Soguktas said.

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