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Transitional Housing -- Director Off to Help War Victims

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
October 31, 2007

For the past several years, Director of Housing William Conk has had two loves: UNH and the international humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders.

In 1994, he took a seven-month leave of absence and volunteered in warring Bosnia, serving as a logistical officer and delivering medical supplies to hospitals on the front lines and to clinics throughout the country.

Now, he’s off to help in other war-torn countries around the world. Conk, who was elected vice-president of the U.S. Doctors Without Borders in 2006, has surrendered his director job here and is taking a yearlong sabbatical to work with the group full time. At the end of that year, he will explore new opportunities at UNH.

For the next year, Conk, who came to UNH in 1977, will be providing medical care to people who are suffering the conflicts of war and those whose access to health care is drastically limited.

Kathy Irla-Chesney, who had been the associate director of housing, is serving as the interim director of housing. Irla-Chesney has worked in the housing office since 1981.

In an interview last year after he was named vice president of the U.S. chapter, Conk said, “I really like UNH; I really like the work I do here. The two worlds are central to my life but they don’t mix.”

Doctors without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières has sections in 19 countries with five operational divisions: France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Spain. During the 1990s, the decision was made to form an association made up of current or former field staff and elect a board of directors from the association. The board has four officer positions.

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