Health Minister Dechen Wangmo has been awarded the distinguished Association of Yale Alumni in Public Health (AYAPH) award in recognition for her leadership in containing the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

Most befitting recognition for someone who has done so much given the many challenges of the time!

The AYAPH Distinguished Alumni Award recognises the contributions and achievements of YSPH alumni who have made significant contributions to public health development. 

All is not because of her, but much is. Under her leadership, we have been able to keep the fast-spreading Covid-19 virus at bay.

An article had the chair of AYAPH Awards Committee say this about Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo: “As described by those who nominated her, Her Excellency is a wise and inspiring advocate for social and health policy in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Recently, as Minister of Health, she has led Bhutan during the SARS-Covid-19 pandemic and was instrumental in Bhutan [achieving] one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.”

Lyonpo was one of the founding members of Lhak-Sam, a civil society organisation for people living with HIV-AIDS. She also founded the Bhutan Cancer Society.  Her current focus is on improving maternal and infant health across the country.

In a rare coincidence, Dechen Wangmo was not the only member of her family to be honoured by Yale this year. Her brother, Dechen Dorji, was awarded the Yale School of the Environment’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his contributions to the fields of conservation, environmental science and management.

Two cheers for Bhutan!

Dechen Dorji was founding director of the country’s Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental and Research and led Bhutan for Life initiative, which has raised more than USD 40 million to finance the protection of the country’s pristine network of protected areas.

These are monumental contributions by individual citizens to the country which must inspire us all, particularly the young, to not just excel in their academic department but also do well and give back to the community they belong to.

What the alumni award tells us about the health minister and her brother is that the focus of education, particularly of higher education, can and should be less factory-modelled and more humanised schooling.

At a time when we are talking about education reform, these are lights that shine on us very brightly.