Frédérique Santerre | PhD 2004
Global Head, Access to Health, Merck Group Communications
Fate brought me to the Institute. I began my academic life at Paris’ Sorbonne University where I studied science before moving to economics. It was this that first piqued my interest in international relations and the UN system and upon graduation I contemplated moving to the UK or the US to further my studies. But it was a Paris-based friend who told me about a top-class academic institution in Geneva. I had never been to Switzerland, but knew that it was a global centre for international affairs and diplomacy. So, I decided to find out more and applied.
Originally, I enrolled in a Master’s degree and planned to stay for a couple of years. However, eventually I enrolled in a PhD which I successfully completed thanks to expert mentoring by Professors Krause and Dupont.
"I firmly believe that it is the skills and network I acquired during my time at the Institute that set me on the path to a career in the public and private sectors."
The Institute is a microcosm of the wider world. It has a top-class faculty and attracts students from all continents, religions and cultures. This makes it an extremely vibrant and varied community. In addition to offering excellent academic training, its location at the heart of international Geneva means that students are able to experience the “real world” first-hand through exposure to international organisations and companies and a wide range of conferences and seminars delivered and attended by decision makers and thought leaders working “in the field”. It was during one such event that I met and interacted with a Harvard professor, one of the founders of the Biodiversity Convention. This resulted in my move to Harvard where I undertook post-doctoral research.
I firmly believe that it is the skills and network I acquired during my time at the Institute that set me on the path to a career in the public and private sectors. Among others, I worked for WHO, UNHCR, ITU, as well as ICTSD, IUCN, Médecins du Monde and the World Economic Forum. Later, I moved to the private sector and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations where I worked at the interface between the global pharmaceutical industry and global health institutions. More recently, I joined Merck Serono, a leading biopharmaceutical company. This has brought me full circle and allowed me to combine my knowledge and experience of international affairs with my early passion for biotechnology. Today, I work on corporate responsibility and an access to health strategy for underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries. The Institute was an excellent training ground for what has become a varied and rewarding career.