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20 June 2009 @ 10:48 pm
No one is going to care about this but me. That's okay.  
I have a hero. Her name is Judith Mackay.

Reasons why she's a big deal:
1. She is widely recognized for single-handedly waking up Asia to the tobacco epidemic, founding the Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control, the first of its kind in the continent.
2. She was named as one of the three most dangerous people by the tobacco industry.
3. She was chief architect of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world's first public health treaty.
4. She wrote The Tobacco Atlas.
5. She was awarded with the British Medical Journal's first Lifetime Achievement Award.
6. She was named as one of TIME magazine's 100 People Who Shape Our World

Basically she is the most badass advocate ever. And she's British!  and a woman! and she lives in Hong Kong! She did some crazy, controversial stuff at a time when it was extremely unpopular. She used her charm and her intelligence to make things happen in the face of mounting pressure from the tobacco industry, the Chinese government, and death threats from pro-smoking groups.

Spring quarter I took an AMAZING anthropology class about tobacco. Among the guests brought into our class were Tom Glynn, Director of International Cancer Control at the American Cancer Society, and Sarah Lawrence, head of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in China. I ran into Tom Glynn at a couple of speaker series and I asked if he would meet with me sometime. I wanted to find out more about his work. We met, talked, and I told him I was heading to Hong Kong this summer and that I was hoping to meet with tobacco control people in HK. (Hong Kong is largely recognized as a success story in East Asia in terms of tobacco control. Mostly because of Judith Mackay.) He said he'd be willing to put me in touch with people he knew in HK, including Dr. Mackay. After that lunch meeting with Tom Glynn, I was beaming with joy.

It was a longshot, but he gave me her email address and I sent her this message:

Dear Dr. Mackay,

I recently met with Tom Glynn, who suggested I contact you. My name is Jamie, I'm an undergraduate at Stanford University and a student of Matthew Kohrman's, whose seminar entitled "The Anthropology of Annihilation: Tobacco at the Turn of the 21st Century" introduced me to his research on tobacco and China. I am passionate about tobacco control and the smoke-free movement (I've been involved in tobacco control advocacy efforts at Stanford -spearheading the campaign for a smoke-free campus policy, and through the American Cancer Society). I met Susan Lawrence while she was on-campus to speak as part of a colloquium series on tobacco control in East Asia. I have been working together with Matthew Kohrman, Robert Proctor, and Steve Fortmann at the Stanford Global Tobacco Prevention Research Initiative.

I'd like to find out more about what work is being done and more about where the movement is heading in Hong Kong. I will be in Hong Kong from June 27-August 26. This is a strong personal and intellectual interest of mine, and if you're available, I would love to meet with you and learn more. However, I understand that you're very busy. If you could direct me to others in Hong Kong I could contact, that'd be helpful as well. I'm also considering relocating to Hong Kong postgraduate to research tobacco use and tobacco control in the city. Thanks so much for your time! Any response would be greatly appreciated.



Dear Jamie,

Thank you very much for your letter.  All the people with whom you have been working or have contact are the best in their field, and this should get you off to a good start!

Unfortunately, I [...] will not be in HK when you are here.

I suggest you contact the following: [lists out contacts in HK]

Hope this helps, and below is summary of HK


and then she provided me with TONS of information, a timeline of the progress that's been made in HK, etc

I'm so happy that she emailed me back!! Even though I'm disappointed that I won't be able to meet her. I'm ecstatic that she took the time to respond to my message and provide me with information/contacts. Note! she signed, Judith. :D :D :D 

My reply:

Thank you so much for your response!! The timeline and data you provided were spot on! I've gone ahead and contacted the people you suggested. This was enormously helpful.

Best of luck to you while you're on leave. I sincerely hope our paths cross at some point in the future, as I'm a huge admirer of your work.

Thanks again,

I want to be that badass someday.




I'm feelin: bouncybouncy
chrysanthe121chrysanthe121 on June 22nd, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
that's so awesome, jamie!! yay!