Stephane Rousseau is stepping down as the executive director of the health care umbrella group Medicam today, and as he prepares to depart for a new job in Laos, he brings to an end 15 years of work toward the development of Cambodia.
In 1996, Rousseau became the head of Medicam, which represents 100 health care NGOs as a unified voice to the government, private sector and donors.
“Without Medicam, the chaos would be complete” in the health sector, said Maurits van Pelt of Medecins San Frontieres, a founder and long-standing steering committee of Medicam.
Rousseau was Medicam’s first executive director, hired after the organization had existed for seven years without one. It had grown from its original 60 member organizations to a widely respected unified voice for those “in the field—the nitty gritty,” Rousseau explained Tuesday night.
Medicam serves primarily in an advocacy capacity. It acts as a liaison among the Ministry of Health, the private sector and the humanitarian sector.
Rousseau brought to the Medicam position a decade of experience working in Thai refugee camps, something he describes as a “microcosm” for all the problems that plague society.
Crime and domestic violence were exacerbated in the camps. Cambodia was still undergoing a civil war. Plus the refugees had to contend with the differences in culture in Thailand, and with the military around them.
After a brief study period in Paris after leaving the camps, Rousseau was sought out by Medicam, which by that time was growing enough to need its own secretariat and staff.
He welcomed the change and the new challenge then—just as he does now. Rousseau will not be leaving Southeast Asia. He will move on to be the co-director of the European Commission’s malaria project in Laos.
“It’s time for me to leave,” he said. “It may be good to have some new blood.”