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Last November we wrote about a specific event: the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference. The event focused on the importance of female leadership in health and science and led us to create a series of blogs. In each post, we encounter a woman who has reached a position of leadership and can be a role model for many young women out there. 

We hope you will feel inspired, and maybe even decide to follow in their footsteps to become the leaders of tomorrow! 

Our second guest on the series is Gerri McHugh. Gerri is director and founder of Global Health Film, a nonprofit organization that promotes storytelling and film as tools of catalytic discussion and change. Her interesting lifepath shows that a career can be more like a series of interconnected roads, rather than a straight line. 

Gerri McHugh

Gerri has been working in positions of leadership for a long time. However, she hasn’t always been part of the nonprofit world. At the beginning of her career, she worked for profitable businesses. Something changed when, in her late 20s, Gerri lost her father. This triggered a series of life changes.

She came back to the UK, after years of living in the South of Europe, and started to work in the non-profit sector. She started in a junior role, but thanks to her commercial experience and the acquisition of an MBA degree (Master in Business Administration), she quickly advanced to a senior level.

After talking with Gerri, you realize how passionate she is about her work and it is not surprising to hear about her long-lived interest for social justice and fighting hidden inequities, such as female genial mutilation (FGM) and sexual violence as a weapon of war. She says she believes all people should live their life fully and be in a condition to utilize their potential and create their own opportunities.

“Luck is when an opportunity arises and you are ready to take it; you can create your own luck.”

Today, Gerri spreads knowledge through great movies from all over the world through Global Health Film. She is not a film-maker, but in 2011, a small group of people started a film club to organize a few movie events a year. They were all members of the Royal Society of Medicine and interested in storytelling. Then, in 2014, supported by a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant, they started the adventure that led to Global Health Film as it is known today. 

“You need to understand what storytelling is, you don’t need to be a filmmaker; you just need to bring new ideas, which is very similar to scientific thinking.”

Volunteers at the Global Health Film Festival 2017

She continues by saying that storytelling is the perfect way to show the grey areas, because reality is never black and white. Movies have the capacity to show you different people’s perspectives, and can help you understand those perspectives. Understanding is fundamental to connection, especially when you talk about global health topics which are complex and involve multiple disciplines. A great movie can capture this complexity.  

When asked what leadership means to her, Gerri said leadership is risk-taking and being unafraid to fail. Adding to that, it is also a collective effort, so as a leader you need to make everybody part of the journey.

Gerri feels very hopeful about the future. She would like to tell every young woman to remember that she is unique, and needs to grab any opportunity to make the most out of her time on this earth.

Feeling inspired by Gerri’s story? Would you like to use movies to spark positive change? Look out for gathering places in your community for people who are passionate about journalism, photography and media. Spaces like Front Line Club in London host events and workshops are can be great opportunities to meet people and build networks.

There are also many study pathways to consider, such as an MBA in Communication. Admission criteria and fees vary around the world, but one example is the EU Business School with programs in different European cities and online. This could give you some ideas about where to start, but remember that everything always starts from within, from you.

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