Geneva: Pioneering the Medical Field

10th May 2023

Geneva has various monikers – some refer to it as the world's tiniest metropolis, while others know it as the city of peace. Regardless of the label, Geneva has always been a sought-after destination. With a significant foreign population of around 40% and being a hub for international organizations and businesses, the city has earned its reputation as a global hotspot. In recent years, Geneva has reaffirmed its commitment to associations by capitalizing on its centres of expertise, starting with the medical field.

Words Remi Deve

Known throughout the world as the UN’s European headquarters and the head office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva every year attracts thousands of people to conferences and meetings. Due to its international nature and multicultural tradition – there are 190 different nationalities represented in the city, making it a truly, diverse, tolerant and inclusive destination – Geneva offers a privileged location for globalized companies: over 140 multinationals are established in the city and around, not to mention 36 international organizations, over 300 NGOs and 200 diplomatic missions.

Medical excellence

Geneva’s reputation for excellence extends across a broad range of fields. The city boasts world-renowned clusters in banking and finance, fragrances, Cleantech, and ICT, as well as in the areas of watchmaking, microtechnologies, BioTech, and MedTech. The city is also widely recognized as a leading global medical hub: home to numerous world-class hospitals, research institutions, and medical universities, Geneva has a long history of medical excellence.

In fact, one of Geneva’s key strengths is its expertise in the field of medical research. The city houses several world-renowned research institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), which are leaders in the fields of global health and medical research.

The HUG is the first university hospital in Switzerland – the national referral centre for childhood liver disease and paediatric liver transplantation, as well as for influenza and emerging viral infections. The hospital leads the way in medical imaging, robot-assisted and minimally-invasive surgery, and has the only high-security diagnostic laboratory in Switzerland. It has been awarded by the WHO the referral centre status in six areas, including e-Health and Telemedicine, Patient Safety and Prevention of Infection, and Humanitarian Medicine and Disaster Management.

In addition to its strong research capabilities, Geneva is also known for its expertise in several medical specialties. The city is particularly renowned for its expertise in the areas of oncology, neurology, and cardiology, with many of its hospitals and medical centres recognized as among the best in the world in these fields. 

No wonder the city is home to many international medical organizations, including the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS), and Doctors Without Borders. The city also boasts the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), the International Society of Geriatric Oncology (SIOG), and the Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research (GFMER), just to name a few.

Meanwhile, the University of Geneva (UNIGE), ranked among the top 100 universities globally, enjoys a strong international reputation for the quality of its research and education. UNIGE works closely with the HUG in research and education, creating a seamless integration between the medical and academic sectors. 

Geneva’s expertise extends beyond medicine, as the city has a high level of competence in sciences and physics. In 2023, the new CERN Science Gateway will open, enabling people of all ages and backgrounds to engage in the discoveries, science, and technologies of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Geneva is also known for its commitment to sustainable development. The city has implemented various initiatives to reduce its environmental impact, such as investing in renewable energy, promoting sustainable transportation, and encouraging waste reduction and recycling. In fact, Geneva’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the city itself, as it is home to numerous international organizations focused on environmental protection and sustainable development.

Case in point: the Geneva Tourism & Conventions Foundation approved, back in 2020, a strategy for sustainable urban tourism in alignment with the UN’s SDGs. The strategy is based on five pillars, which include accelerating the transition to a circular and post-carbon economy, promoting local initiatives, fostering a social and collective impact on the destination, and strengthening collaboration among tourism stakeholders.

Key assets for a conference

“Geneva’s international renown and proficiency in diverse fields make it an optimal location for European and global medical associations to organize their events,” remarks Hervé Ney, Head of Sterilization at HUG and Treasurer of the World Federation for Hospital Sterilization sciences (WFHSS), who played a pivotal role in bringing the WFHSS 2021 conference to the city. According to Ney, the international standing of the University of Geneva, Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), and local clinics have contributed to the city’s status as a ‘medical knowledge hub.’ He asserts, “We have key opinion leaders recognized internationally, integrated into the executive committees of professional associations covering numerous disciplines.”

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Ney highlights several advantages to holding conferences in Geneva. The city’s central location in Europe and its proximity to numerous international organizations make it an ideal destination. Moreover, he suggests that hosting conferences in Geneva reinforces the city’s international influence, allows visitors to experience the art of living in Geneva and the Lake Geneva region, and enriches the cultural diversity of the city.

According to Ney, Geneva has several additional benefits for conference organizers, including its convenient location in Europe, an international airport close to the city centre, complimentary (and high quality!) transportation during the conference, superior hotel options, favorable past conference experiences, safety, and cleanliness. One of the main meeting venues in the city, the CICG, has well-equipped facilities for language translation. 

Furthermore, the Geneva Convention Bureau provides valuable support to conference organizers. “They have extensive experience in conference planning and demonstrate a desire to find win-win solutions,” Ney notes. “They really made a difference in terms of ensuring a seamless experience.”

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