Sophaganine Ty is a doctor who has travelled from her home country of Cambodia to the Pacific Islands, and currently undertakes the important role of regional technical advisor on Sexual and Reproductive Health for the Secretariat for the Pacific Community.
GHG: Tell us about yourself.
I was born and grew up in Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge regime came to power when I was 8 years old. I consider myself a survivor of this regime. I am a medical doctor by profession. I completed medical school in Cambodia, and did my postgraduate studies in Thailand, Fiji, and Belgium.
GHG: Why did you choose your career?
Ha ha…sometimes you don’t have much choice in choosing your career. It just comes by chance. Most of my family members are doctors; my dad is also a doctor. Going to medical school in Cambodia at that time saved my family expenses, because we can share our text books and other educational materials.
After I graduated from medical school, I was very keen to work in emergency medicine, because you need to be on your toes, fast, and alert at all the times. In 1994, I received a scholarship award from the Japan International Cooperation Agency to attend postgraduate studies in Dermatology and Venereology in Thailand. It was an excellence course and I was very proud to complete my postgraduate studies and go back to my home country. When I got back, I had the opportunity to work at the National Centre of Dermato-Venerology, where I worked on a USAID-funded research project. I learned a lot from the project, particularly that I really liked this field of research and work.
GHG: Tell us about your current role.
I was given the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Health Fiji more than 10 years ago, and from there, I moved to the regional organisation, the Secretariat for the Pacific Community. My current position is as Regional Technical Advisor for Sexual and Reproductive Health. My role is to provide technical support in the areas of sexual and reproductive health to the Pacific Island countries and territories. I provide support to countries in planning and implementation of strategic plans, capacity building for health care workers, develop and revise treatment guidelines and policies, monitoring and evaluation of programs, clinical management, research and surveillance, and working with various donors.
GHG: How do you keep motivated to work in the field of global health?
I am driven by the goal to improve health and the wellbeing of people. I want to see places where people are happy and healthy; people are able to access quality care and essential medicines; everyone has equal access to health care and people have their right to choose and make decisions about their healthcare for themselves. I know that I cannot change the world, but I am sure my contribution will definitely can make the difference.
GHG: What is the most essential piece of equipment for working abroad?
I think you need to be a hard working person, willing to share and help others. You need to be open-minded, be sensible and understanding. You can’t just push your way through without listening to others. Be creative and learn from your experiences and from others. I keep learning every day, and I will never stop. I am very fortuned to be able to work with different many countries and meet different people.
GHG: What are your tips for people interested in working in global health?
No matter where you are working right now, you always can contribute and make impact on health of the people. For your professional career, please don’t stop learning, don’t be afraid to take on new challenges, because those new challenges will teach you and allow you to step up to the next level. You can make a lot of impact on people’s lives when you work in challenging places and in poorly resourced settings.
GHG: Please recommend any interesting global health related websites that you particularly enjoy or would like to share
At present, I also hold a position as President of the Oceania Society for Sexual Health and HIV Medicine. It is a professional body representing the interests of health care workers working in the area of HIV, sexually transmitted infections and sexual health care in the smaller Pacific island countries and territories.