The Most Important Person You've Never Heard of But Should Have

Dr. Jong-Wook Lee

Many eminent men and women have had tremendous contributions towards the welfare of humankind. Some of them remain famous even beyond their deaths yet others remain unknown. Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, former World Health Organization Director-General, is just one but an example of the several other outstanding individuals whose exceptional labor is least remembered. In my presentation, I set out to examine his life quite briefly taking into serious consideration his profession and efforts to improve life of others through his skills.

Dr. Lee studied at Seoul National University where he obtained a medical degree. He then proceeded to the University of Hawaii for his Masters degree in Public Health. While studying medicine, he demonstrated his burning desire to leave a mark in his profession of choice by taking care lepers voluntarily owing to the few facilities to handle such matters at the time. With the support of his wife (Kaburaki Reiko), Dr. Lee moved to Samoa where they dedicated themselves to the society's underprivileged in the year 1981.

Between the years of 1983 and 2006, Dr. Lee was one of the highly resourceful staff members at the World Health Organization. He worked at national, regional and international levels besides holding a number of positions as he climbed the ladder of his career.

Upon his admission into the World Health Organization fraternity, he spent appreciable moments in the department handling the issues of the world's hugely dreadful disease-leprosy. Before the year 1995, he was already serving as Director in the Global Programme for Vaccines and Immunization, and Executive Secretary, Childrens' Vaccine Initiative. He later held positions of Senior Policy Adviser and Special Representative of the Director-General.

At the peak of career, Dr. Lee had propelled himself to the coveted position Director-General of the World Held Organization, an organ of the United Nations. Back at his home, remains a hero since he made a mark by becoming the first Korean to hold the top job in an international agency.

Dr. Lee participated actively in the initiation processes of many programmes such as the Global Tuberculosis Drug Facility that has served millions of Tuberculosis victims. He is also famous for his controversial 3 by 5 Policy. It elicited negative reactions from individuals and even groups including president of the International Aids Society and Medecins sans Frontieres.

Furthermore, Dr. Lee was instrumental in the development of the Global Partnership to end Tuberculosis, with more than two hundred and fifty international partners. They included World Health Organization member states, donors, non-governmental organizations and other concerned parties.

His death meant that the earth had lost an exceptionally strong man that the world needed (Annan, 2003). As the world grieved, it became evident Dr. Lee had done a lot of work especially in the quest to improve the health of individuals across continents. He had the determination to combat HIV/AIDS Pandemic, Polio and other fatal medical issues that hampered economic and social progress on the planet.

To add up to his outstanding work as a man who deserves global recognition, the Time Magazine depicted him as one among the top one hundred people who shaped lives and was a hugely influential figure in the world during his reign as Director-General of World Health Organization.

The South Korean government also made some in appreciation and recognition of Dr. Lee's achievements and contributions for humanity. In 2007, the government quickly established a memorial prize in Dr. Lee's memory. After his death, the government officially announced plans concerning the award, and it solemnly encouraged individuals and nations to take part. This happened at a meeting of World Health Organization the same year.

Many of those who gave their last respect to Dr. Lee portray him as a man whose life was worth living. His boss, Dr. Koffi Annan, remembered him fondly as a man who was for all people. President George Bush recalled the magnificent works of Dr. Lee especially his unyielding efforts to better the health of the people of the world. His son, Tadahiro, could never forget his father's generous and caring heart besides being an ambitious man who set goals and had the determination to accomplish his objectives within the limited time at his disposal.

In summary, Dr. Jong-Wook Lee was a rare man with qualities unique to him. He worked so hard and passionately not only for his own accomplishment but also for the improvement of lives in the whole world. We owe this man due respect and appreciation. The world should always have terrific memories of a person whose labor bore fruits that we keep enjoying even years after his demise. May God rest his soul in eternal peace.



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