Katharina-Sophia Dolezal: World Health Organisation Cobham Hall, UK

Posted: 03 August 2018

It inspired me to follow my heart and passion but understand that I had to work hard to achieve it.

Katharina Dolezal works at the European Regional Office of the World Health Organisation in Demark, supporting countries in their efforts to increase vaccination uptake and to reduce the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Raised in Austria, Katharina spent a year at Round Square school, Cobham Hall, in England, an experience she cites as inspiring a love of learning and providing her with an international grounding. These foundations have served her well throughout her global public health career, which has seen her debating drug policies at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and researching prevention methods for the HIV/AIDS programme of the UN (UNAIDS) in Brazil.

Katharina describes her year at Cobham as life-changing, and the start of her “international career”. She recalls that in choosing a school, the opportunity to be involved in the Round Square international community appealed to her and her parents.

Recalling the experience of stepping outside her comfort zone at the 2006 Round Square International Conference, where she attended a meeting of holocaust survivors, she says: “Being Jewish myself and growing up in Austria, it was a topic that I had learned a lot about, but it was a challenging and distressing subject to talk to others about”. Katharina also credits the RSIC, and the opportunity it provided to meet young people from around the world, for encouraging her to be “more open-minded and conscious of other cultures”.

Katharina’s career since leaving school has included roles with organisations ranging from the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations in Austria (where she tackled topics such as the non-medical use of prescription of drugs and drug use disorders), to the HIV/AIDS programme of the UN in Brazil (where her outreach efforts helped to educate the public and young people), to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (where she was involved in organising a youth forum, developed a website, created digital information tools and online support networks). Now based in Copenhagen, at the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization Unit (VPI) of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Regional Office for Europe .Katharina’s work involves close collaboration with Member States to empower individuals to develop skills, increase knowledge and build confidence in vaccination.

Reflecting on the impact that her experiences at a Round Square school has had on her career and studies since, Katharina says: “I have always been interested in lots of different subjects and enjoy studying. Cobham had a very open-minded attitude to education, an attitude that shaped my entire approach to learning. Academically, I was a very creative person, and the school system was very encouraging of that”.

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