Helping Haitian Doctors Heal Haitians

Access to high-quality specialty care in infectious diseases in Haiti is scarce. Doctors often lack the basic tools to diagnose and treat infections effectively.

“We have a lot of infections in Haiti but we don’t always have access to labs. Our approach is empirical, based on symptoms and previous experience,” said Romaine Nephtalie Mesidor, one of six Haitian physicians who were selected for the Institutional Strengthening program, a postgraduate training for Haitian physicians in infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS.

The first class of the Institutional Strengthening program spent January through April this year taking advanced courses at the University of Maryland.

Haiti doctors

From left, Wilson Dorvilus, Jude Jean Jacques, Benetty Augustin, Franck Valery Turenne, Marie Eugenie Desir, Romaine Nephtalie Mesidor. These Haitian physicians are the first class of the Institutional Strengthening Program. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

“We had access to the best [physicians] in each specialty such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis. We had lectures, tests, presentations and we also visited patients. It was intense,” said Franck Turenne, a family practitioner in Haiti.

The specialized training in infectious diseases will allow doctors to identify diseases more accurately, while working within the limitations in the country’s health system.

Mesidor explained that the main limitation is the accessibility to laboratory tests in Haiti.
“When patients come to the doctor in the United States, the physician does a lot of exams and bases the diagnosis in the lab results. In Haiti we don’t always have the labs first,” Mesidor said.

Her classmate, Turenne, said that studying a variety of tests results as part of the training helped them confirm the accuracy of their observations and think of new approaches to diagnosis.

The Institutional Strengthening program is a partnership between Catholic Relief Services, the Université of Notre-Dame d’Haiti, the Hospital St. Francois de Sales in Haiti, the University of Maryland School of Nursing, and the Institute of Human Virology, which is part of the UMD School of Medicine. It also has a shorter training for Haitian nurses.

The group of physicians is currently in Haiti finalizing the second part of the program, when they will become trainers for future classes of Haitian doctors.

“The best way to make sure you learned something is being able to transmit it to someone else,” Mesidor said. “Our colleagues in Haiti have faith in us. They know we can do it.”

Alsy Acevedo is a CRS communications officer covering Latin America and the Caribbean. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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One Response to “Helping Haitian Doctors Heal Haitians”

  1. Pam Tred Says:

    Very Cool!!! What a wonderful program to train Haitian doctors further. And giving them the tools to teach their colleagues is phenomenal. Thank you for the good works.

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