Fellowship Program

Fellowship Overview 

The Equity Initiative Fellowship, also known as the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity in Southeast Asia (AFHESEA), is a fully funded award designed for working professionals from Southeast Asia and China. The Fellowship’s goal is to advance Fellows’ competency in leadership and health equity, and to inspire and deepen their commitment to advancing social justice in health.

The Equity Initiative Fellowship is a lifelong journey that begins with an inspiring and rigorous Induction Year, followed by a longer-term practice-based commitment to health equity through collective leadership for social change. The Fellowship program experience goes beyond traditional academic coursework, through various modalities of experiential, peer, and blended online learning organized around two themes: Health Equity and Leadership. 

We have invited Fellows to join this program on the basis of their demonstrated commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm for leading change for health equity. Fellows are the transformative leaders who will work to reform policies and systems, tackle social determinants, and address health inequities within and beyond the health sector. 

Applications for the 2024 Fellowship open July 1, and close August 31, with finalists informed December 2023.


Why Equity and Leadership

Serious health inequities exist within and between the countries of Southeast Asia and it goes beyond health. This is due to many factors, but chiefly imbalance of power; inequitable policies and laws; unequal economic conditions and opportunities; and historical and contemporary prejudices, including ethnical and religious intolerance. At the Equity Initiative, we define health equity quite broadly as a multidimensional concept that considers fairness in health and social determinants of health and it goes beyond health; it is not just an issue for medical professionals or the health sector alone.

We believe that leaders in society can either perpetuate or worsen inequities, or effect change for the better. Leadership and a community of practitioners are critically important to not only bring regional attention to health equity but also to motivate, innovate, and craft solutions. The Equity Initiative’s goal is that the Fellows will become transformational leaders who can guide, direct, and influence others to bring about fundamental changes for health equity. 

Induction Year 

The Fellowship program seeks to inspire and deepen the Fellows’ commitment to advance social justice in health. The experience goes beyond traditional academic coursework with peer, experiential, and blended online learning organized around two themes: Health Equity and Leadership. 

The Induction Year of the Fellowship program is structured around 6 learning events: Opening Retreat, Global Learning I & II, Asia Trek, Project Accelerator, and Annual Forum. The learning events are delivered by leading experts and practitioners from a range of fields including government policy makers, academic professors, and founders of NGOs, and leaders of social entrepreneurship program, and social activists. Competencies are developed through core readings, interactive sessions with peers, guest speakers, and faculties, panel discussions and debates, field visits, skill-building workshops, and project development. In the second year, Fellows receive seed funding to conduct collaborative health equity projects.

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Opening Retreat

The Opening Retreat is the initial orientation for the Fellows in which they become grounded in the core modules and ideals of the program, engage with leadership development theory and practice, and gain exposure to health equity frameworks and values. The Opening Retreat also aims to create a comfortable atmosphere in which Fellows start begin the bonding process that will ultimately will determine the success of the induction year’s programming.

Fellow’s quote: “What I loved about this retreat, clearly the wonderful connections we made with one another fast-forward our friendship.”


Global Learning I

Global Learning I is the first half of a 2-week event that takes Fellows beyond Southeast Asia for international exposures to the context of health inequities. It introduces Fellows to global perspectives on social determinants of health and on-the-ground health equity actions and social movements.

Fellow’s quote: “I had the chance to experience real life stories of health equity from different countries.”

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Global Learning II

Global Learning II, the second-half of the Global Learning event, connects Fellows with world-class scholars and inspirational leaders and deepens their understanding of the ways in which social and economic determinants affect the health of communities. In addition to academic sessions at Harvard University, the learning event includes field visits that enable Fellows to learn about the U.S health care system and innovations that are being pursued in healthcare delivery.

Fellow’s quote: “It’s so refreshing to see leadership in academia transcending to actual, real work. It’s like the knowledge never stopped here.”

Together, the Global Learning experiences provide an opportunity for Fellows to become exposed to diverse perspectives and participate in exchange across disciplines, cultures, and geographies.


Asia Trek

The goal of Asia Trek is to provide Fellows with a local lens into transnational health equity issues to spark dialogue, critical thinking, and problem analysis. This is a 1-week experiential immersion in the region with exposure to key health actors, action and engagement with policymakers through field visits, panel discussions and debates, and dialogue with community leaders. Asia Trek focuses on the themes of vulnerable population,s including urban poor, ethnic minorities, domestic and international migrants, displaced people and informal dwellers, and children and youth with disabilities.

Fellow’s quote: “To be with like-minded people is the most enjoyable part of the gatherings with the Fellows, guest speakers and mentors. Another unique experience is to be in the communities with serious equity challenges.”


Project Accelerator

The primary goal of Project Accelerator is for Fellows to bring their proposals for equity projects to near-final form. Designing a health equity project gives Fellows the opportunity to combine peer and experiential learning and to make an impact in promoting health equity in the region. These projects, carried out in the Fellows’ second year, enable Fellows to put into practice the core values of health equity, which they have studied over the program year, and exercise newly acquired leadership skills. During a 5-day event, Fellows work in their project groups with guidance and support from experts. The Project Accelerator learning event also aims to continue building leadership and management competencies via action-oriented training workshops and open discussions to allow Fellows to exercise creativity, spontaneity, communication, leadership, and purposeful teamwork.

Fellow’s quote: “It made me recognize how professional our Fellows were in providing training on program management and communication skills.”


Annual Forum

The Annual Forum is the culminating event of the fellowship year and a signature event of the Equity Initiative in building a sustained equity community. The Forum marks the start of the Fellows’ second year projects to advance health equity in the region, and it formally introduces and inducts the graduated Fellows into the life-long community of the Atlantic Fellows Programs. The Forum also plays an important role in promoting inter-cohort relationships with Fellow alumni, incoming Fellows, and allies as a bridge to building a regional equity community.

Fellow’s quote: “I’m much more appreciative now of the need for such programs as the EI and bringing like-minded champions together for intellectual and moral support. Advocacy and direct service can be very lonely, disheartening work, and a burden shared is a burden halved.”


The Annual Forum is held in Thailand each year to coincide with the annual Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC), a large-scale, high-level global health conference that covers a wide range of pressing issues and brings together public health leaders and key stakeholders from around the world. PMAC creates a great opportunity to link Fellows to the wider regional and global networks.

Locations and Schedules of Past Learning Events

2017 Cohort

2018 Cohort

2019 Cohort

2022 Cohort

Opening Retreat

Viet Nam
29 Mar - 3 Apr 2017

Viet Nam
18-24 Mar 2018

Viet Nam
10-17 Mar 2019

Viet Nam
22-29 Apr 2022

Global Learning I

7-14 May 2017

26 May-1 Jun 2018

South Africa
25-31 May 2019

Atlanta, USA
4-11 Jun 2022

Global Learning II

4-10 Jun 2017

2-9 Jun 2018

1-8 Jun 2019

12-18 Jun 2022

Asia Trek

13-20 Aug 2017

5-12 Aug 2018

1- 8 Sep 2019

13-20 Aug 2022

Project Accelerator

30 Oct-5 Nov 2017

28 Oct-4 Nov 2018

27 Oct -3 Nov 2019

22-29 Oct 2022

Annual Forum

3-6 Feb 2018

3-6 Feb 2019

25-29 Jan 2020

2-5 Feb 2023

Regional Selection Committee

Regional Selection Committee (RSC) is comprised of prominent leaders across the region with a strong background in working towards health equity. RSC members are selected on a rolling basis, and the committee's primarily role is in making final selections for incoming Fellows. The RSC selects a mix of candidates to optimize peer learning, choosing the best mix of individuals across countries, ethnicities, gender, age, sectors, disciplines and backgrounds, as well as give special consideration for under-represented groups.

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Michael Lim Tan


A medical anthropologist, writer, and academic, Dr. Tan served as 10th Chancellor of UP Diliman (UPD) from March 1, 2014, to February 28, 2017. Prior to his appointment as UPD Chancellor, Dr. Tan has been active with non-governmental health organizations since 1997 and is well-known for his significant contributions to anthropological scientific research, education, advocacy, development work, and for his column Pinoy Kasi, which appears twice a week in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He has authored numerous books and articles focusing on indigenous medical beliefs, sex and sexuality, reproductive and sexual health (particularly HIV/AIDS), pharmaceuticals, and health policy issues. Dr. Tan is the recipient of numerous awards, including the De La Salle Scholarum award in 2014, the Rizal Outstanding Chinese Filipinos Award for Literature and Journalism, the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, Best Opinion Column from the Catholic Mass Media Award. In 2012, he was elected to the National Academy of Science and Technology, the country’s highest advisory body on science.

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Phyllida Travis

United Kingdom

Dr. Travis worked for over twenty years for WHO. She was Director, Department of Health Systems Development, World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia Region from 2015-2019. Before moving to the South-East Asia Region, she was a health systems adviser in WHO headquarters and Coordinator, International Health Partnership+ from 2009-2015. Professional interests include health service delivery organization and management in low and middle-income settings, the stewardship of health systems, monitoring health system performance, and health development effectiveness. Publications include “Working Together for Health”, the World Health Report on the health workforce (principal author), and lead author of Overcoming health system constraints to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a top ten Lancet paper. Before joining WHO, she worked as a GP in the UK and for several international NGOs. She is a fellow of the Faculty of Public Health of the UK Royal College of Physicians.


Alex Au


Alex Au is a vice president of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), Singapore. TWC2 is a non-profit concerned with the rights and treatment of migrant workers. After a career in the corporate sector — mostly marketing and regional business development — Alex joined TWC2 in 2011, and for many years served as Treasurer. His first involvement in civil society began some twenty years prior, when he was prominent in Singapore’s LGBT movement. He is also known in Singapore as a socio-political commentator and human rights activist and has contributed chapters to various books on politics and society. At TWC2, Alex has special responsibility for a number of portfolios: communications, internal data and case management systems, and international relations. Other portfolios that Alex is responsible for include overseeing the social work team, which handles casework and outreach to worker communities, various computerisation projects within the organisation, and the development of policy ideas as part of TWC2’s advocacy mission.

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Wanicha Chuenkongkaew


Dr. Wanicha is the President-elect Royal college of ophthalmologists of Thailand and the Regional Coordinator, Asia-Pacific Network on Health Professional Education Reforms (HPER). She also served as an Assistant Dean on Academic Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, a Vice President on Education, Mahidol University. Dr. Wanicha is well recognized for international achievement by being elected as a scientific council member of the Asian Neuro-ophthalmology Society, Review Editorial Board member of local and international journals in Neuro-Ophthalmology, and Health Professional Education. She has actively engaged in medical education in Thailand for many years. She is working as a secretary on the national commission for strategic movement on developing Health Workforce Education in the 21st century and the HPER Foundation of Thailand. She is extensively running on the global and regional movement towards HPER as member of WHO Technical Working Groups in response to the emerging health needs of the population dynamics and accessible health care systems towards UHC according to SDGs.


Pham Kieu Oanh


Oanh is the EI senior fellow and the founder and CEO of the Center for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP). She is a pioneer and expert in the field of social enterprise development, child protection and women’s rights. Mrs. Oanh is one of the co-founders of the ASEAN Social Entrepreneurship Network, a member of the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, founder of the Vietnam Social Entrepreneurs Club. For the past 20 years, she has held various positions in state-owned enterprises, international non-governmental organizations and UN agencies. Oanh is actively involved in social enterprise movements including co-founding the Social Enterprise Asian Network and the Vietnam Social Entrepreneurs Club. She is also a member of the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Programme and a Trustee of AirAsia Foundation.

Fellowship Application

Fellows will be selected based on demonstrated commitment to health equity and leadership potential. The program selects 20-25 Fellows each year from Southeast Asia and China. 

Applications for the 2024 Fellowship open July 1, and close August 31, with finalists informed December 2023.

The Equity Initiative Fellowship is seeking outstanding mid-career professionals from Southeast Asia and China from any sector (public, private, non-profit, academia, business) who have demonstrated leadership in their field, who have shown a commitment to equity and social justice, and are interested in a lifelong engagement with the equity community.

To apply for the Fellowship, the applicant must: 

  • Have a track record of demonstrated leadership and commitment to social justice 
  • Have a clear long-term vision to promote systems change for health equity.
  • Have at least 6 years of professional working experience 
  • Be a resident citizen of one of the Southeast Asian countries or China
  • Be proficient in spoken and written English

Our selection process involves the deliberation of National Committees and a Regional Selection Committee who help us score, rank, and select future Fellows. In the selection process, the Committees prioritize individual attributes of the candidates as well as country, gender, and professional backgrounds to achieve an optimal cohort mix. 

The selection criteria include the following:

  • A diverse mix of applicants from a wide range of professional sectors
  • Achieve a mix and balance of Fellows for optimal multi-national and multi-sectoral peer learning
  • Professional capabilities in health, social development, or related fields
  • Capacity to participate fully in the fellowship activities on specific dates with the support of current employer or home institution if applicable.

For the 2024 Equity Initiative Fellowship, the application timeline is set as follows:

1 July 2023

Online Applications Open

31 August 2023

Online Applications Close

October 2023

Shortlisted Candidates Notified

October-November 2023

Shortlisted Candidate Interviews

December 2023

Final Selections Announced

January 2024

2024 Fellows Announced

March 2024

First 2024 Fellowship Event Commences

How is the program impacted by COVID-19?

As the COVID-19 global pandemic evolves, we may need to shift the program structure and modify the learning activities in order to follow global and regional mandates and guidelines for public health. Once Fellows are accepted, we will share the latest fellowship program schedule. We regret not being able to provide further details at this time.

What benefits/privileges should the Fellows anticipate?

During the one-year fellowship term, Fellows will participate in 6 in-person learning events totaling about 6 weeks, in which they will interact with world-class faculty and key actors in health equity and development, globally and regionally. The Fellows will gain knowledge, expert and peer support, and an opportunity to develop and implement an individual or collaborative equity action project with seed funding.

What are the Fellow's obligations?

The fellowship is designed for working professionals to accompany full-time work. Fellows are required to attend all Fellowship learning events as well as participate in online learning. It is expected that fellows will network with their peers and wider swaths of multidisciplinary professionals and will become members of a global community with shared interests and goals for social justice in health.

I am not a health expert or working in the health sector, am I eligilble to apply?

Yes, the Equity Initiative is looking for cross sector leadership. What makes the Equity Initiative unique is our commitment to building out a network across professional fields and interests. 

What commitments do Fellows have after the Fellowship Induction Year?

Upon graduation, Fellows will start their second year project. Fellows also begin to join the global network of Atlantic Fellows. 

If I applied but wasn't selected to the program, can I reapply?

Yes, the applicants are encouraged to reapply when the next call for application is opened. 

If I am accepted, can I defer until next year?

No, deferrals will not be accepted. Please apply for the year you wish to participate. 

Can I apply if I am not a national of Souteast Asia or China, but have experience working in the region?

No, only citizens or resident nationals of one of Southeast Asian countries or China are eligible to apply. 

What is a 'resident national'?

That is, the person is allowed to reside indefinitely within a country of which he or she is not a citizen. 

Am I able to apply if I am currently living, working, or studying outside of my home country?

Yes. Applicants currently living outside of their home country who hold citizenship or resident nationality from Southeast Asian countries or China are still eligible to apply.

Who should write my reference letters?

The Equity Initiative program requires two (2) letters of recommendation from each applicant. Reference should comment on your professional abilities, current work and interests regarding social justice or in health development, and leadership qualities either within your field or your larger community. 

When are my references' deadlines?

The references’ deadline is the same as the Application Deadline; however, we understand that it may take an extra few days for all references to respond.  

How will my application be confirmed?

A confirmation email will be sent to your email address once your application is received.

Can I update my application after submission?

Once submitted, updates to an application are NOT possible. You may work on your application online and save drafts until you are ready to submit. Please only submit your application when it is complete.

Are late applications accepted?

No, we do not accept late applications. We encourage applicants to submit applications as early as possible. The upcoming deadline for applications is 30 September 2021. 

I could not upload my video, how can I get help?

Please email info@equityinitiative.org and we will be happy to help you.

Please make sure your video file types and size are correct. Accepted video file types are avi, mov, wmv, mp4, 3gp, mpg, mpeg and maximum size is 100MB. Slow or unstable internet connection is one of the main causes of unsuccessful uploads. 

Other Questions?

Please email info@equityinitiative.org and we will be happy to help you.