By kfreeland - November 6, 2014


"...move past fear and just do it."


"Respond to every call that excites your spirit." –Rumi

By Ladi Khoddam

Melissa Bingham’s recent journey precisely echoes Rumi’s 11th century sentiments and words. She is no stranger to taking chances. She welcomes uncertainty and challenges herself; she’s volunteered in a variety of countries (Haiti, the Philippines, and Benin to name just a few on her long list), providing medical and disaster relief. A practicing cardiac nurse the past ten years in Denver and Cincinnati, and a student in the global health MPH program, she took a leap of faith this past year and applied for a summer internship through Duke University. Chosen from a highly competitive pool of applicants, Melissa was placed to intern with the World Health Organization (WHO) and left for Geneva, Switzerland in June where she worked in the department of Preparedness & Mass Gatherings, which falls within Global Preparedness, Surveillance and Response Operations, under Global Capabilities, Alert and Response.

“My first day of work was Monday, June 23rd. I got off the bus that morning, took a deep breath and walked through the doors of the World Health Organization. Security is standing at the door, getting me all nervous, but then I got to tell them that I belonged there. What a good moment that was,” said Melissa.

Melissa quickly began working with mass gatherings and outbreak, tracking worldwide events such as the World Cup in Brazil and Ramadan and Hajj, the yearly Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. She quickly learned she would not just be running errands or grabbing her supervisor’s coffee. She was doing real work. Soon after arriving in Geneva, WHO declared that the Ebola outbreak was a global emergency. She was working on the forefront of public and global health. Every day at the office she was learning something new. Surveillance. Mapping. Epidemiology. And she was loving it. Melissa was in meetings with UN officials, meeting representatives from countries around the world, and was involved with day to day discussion regarding the Ebola outbreak.

Melissa’s three month internship with WHO was scheduled to end in the middle of September. However, due to her outstanding work ethic and contributions, she was officially hired to assist with alleviating the Ebola outbreak by preparing foreign medical teams for deployment to West Africa. She will work to coordinate and standardize the training of nurses, physicians and medical staff, and hopes to head out to West Africa herself in the coming months to help.

Melissa recognizes that it’s a unique, exciting, and surreal time to be working with WHO. When asked if she would do this all over again, she exclaimed “Absolutely.”

She mentions one of Helen Keller’s famous quotes, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  She urges all students, professionals, and dreamers to take a chance and go after their passions, their happiness, and their wildest aspirations. To move past fear and just do it.

If you would like to follow Melissa’s journey at the World Health Organization, check out her blog at