Experiencing the ripple effect of one great leader in global health

Today’s post comes to us from GHF Elizabeth Lilly.

Great job recounting our day, Elizabeth! Enjoy!

Today I feel that we were able to experience firsthand the past, the present, and the future of health care in Haiti. We began our day with the future: a sparkling new training hospital in Mirebalais. We were met there by Suzy, the Operations Manager of the Mirebalais Hospital project, who gave us a tour of the extensive premises. She explained that the hospital would place a heavy emphasis on women’s health, and that the official opening date was yet to be determined due to the complex nature of such a venture. As we walked through the clean, white corridors, all of us were not only struck by the size of the hospital, but excited for the people in this area who would soon have access to such extraordinary care. In nearly every room we went into, a combination of UV lights, open windows, and fans created a system of constant ventilation and sanitation. Plenty of space was provided around each bed to fit both doctors and residents/trainees. At each bed station were plug-ins for vital medical gases, and the seamless design of the floors allowed them to be cleaned easily and quickly.

One particularly vibrant aspect of the hospital’s beauty was an extensive collection of mosaics. Scattered throughout the hospital (and most prominent in the pediatric ward), the artwork will serve as a bright spot in a place which by its very nature will see suffering in the coming years. The hospital will offer nearly every kind of care imaginable; for the first time in our trip, we saw dental exam rooms on the second floor. There were even (Granddad, I’m sure you’ll appreciate this) a few endoscopy suites!

We headed up to the roof to see the large collection of solar panels which will power the entire hospital during the day. PIH is looking into a solar battery, which will allow the excess energy created during the day to be used at night. Suzy also explained that PIH and the city of Mirebalais are working to use some of that excess energy to power sections of the local grid.

The Zanmi Lasante hospital in Cange, I think, accounted for both the past and the present of Haitian healthcare. We were somewhat familiar with the history of the place, based on our reading in Mountains Beyond Mountains. Upon our arrival, all of us uttered some variant of the words “This is not what I expected.” The hospital sat atop a verdant hill rather than the desert most of us had been anticipating. But it wasn’t just a hospital. As our van rolled into the parking lot, we were met by the strains of violin music from nearly every direction. To our left, a group of young children with violins formed a semicircle around an enthusiastic instructor. Others, their feet dangling off the thick stone walls, played by themselves without music. On our tour, led by Katharine Mathews, we learned that all of this was a result of a wildly popular summer music camp that drew to Cange hundreds of children from across Haiti and even Florida.

Our tour continued as we offered a greeting of “bonswa” to nearly everyone we encountered. The layout of the hospital made quite apparent its organic growth; its winding staircases and clustered buildings suggested that it had grown from the inside out since its founding in 1987. We were able to peek inside a few maternal and pediatric wards. Katharine, the Oncology Program Coordinator, was particularly enthusiastic about a new building which would house chemotherapy patients. As someone who perhaps sees a future for herself in oncology, I asked which the most common cancer among their patients was. She gave her answer without an ounce of hesitation: breast cancer. She also cited cervical cancer as common, further cementing the already prevalent notion that women’s health is a monumental concern in Haiti.

In front of the original clinic building run by Dr. Paul Farmer in Cange.

Our official tour concluded at a small shop on campus run by sewing extraordinaire Jackie Williams. Her store sold all sorts of beautiful handmade goods; dolls, paintings, and wooden figurines covered the shelves.  Dr. Sara Mansbach of Partners in Literacy Haiti later led us to the library, which housed books in Creole, French, and English.

With the artist, Jemson, of their purchased paintings.

After a quick look at the library, we were invited to eat lunch at the Zanmi Lasante staff cafeteria. We ate on an outside porch that provided breathtaking (I mean that quite literally) views of the mountains and, far on the horizon, the Dominican Republic. Afterward, we hopped back in the van and drove on to Hinche, where we got settled in our (pink!) Midwives for Haiti guesthouse. As we prepare for our first night without air conditioning, we are all looking forward to a new, considerably more rural view of Haiti.

Aneesh’s Highlight of the Day: Touring the Mirebalais hospital, a medical oasis surrounded by poverty and poor healthcare.

Brian’s Highlight of the Day: Speaking and learning Creole with the ladies at Midwives for Haiti.

Bridget’s Highlight of the Day: 1) The car rides. 2) Visiting the amazing new hospital in Mirebalais.

Elizabeth’s Highlight of the Day: Seeing Suzy’s face light up with excitement as she talked about the incredible new hospital in Mirebalais.

Stuart’s Highlight of the Day: Enjoying the music from the music camp at Zanmi Lasante.

Wyatt’s Highlight of the Day: Trying to speak in Creole with the cooks here at Midwives for Haiti.

4 thoughts on “Experiencing the ripple effect of one great leader in global health

  1. Ed Lilly

    Congratulations to the NA staff and other founders of this real world exposure of young leaders to how the world lives and works – truly a life changing opportunity.
    And congrats also, Elizabeth, on such insightful and colorful observations of your day. Yes, I’m delighted that endoscopy at Mirebalais will help deal with the ravages of Helicobacter pylori in Haiti, including gastric cancer.

  2. Sean Wetmore

    You are all awesome — keep “walking the walk”. I can’t wait to see you all when you return on Saturday. Heading off to Charlottesville today with the 2015 Chesapeake Bay Fellows for sessions with the Batten folks — can’t wait to share! Do good, be safe!

  3. Sean Wetmore

    What an awesome recap! We are all so very proud of the good work you are doing and I am excited to see what insights you will have when you return. Just had dinner with the 2015 CBFs here in Charlottesville and we are all thinking about you all.


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