The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science

Haiti and Dartmouth at the Crossroads

A resource-challenged nation and a resource-rich institution acted on three words at the recent Porter Symposium: Commitment. Collaboration. Hope.

- by Nick Danford

The symposium, titled "Haiti and Dartmouth at the Crossroads," was designed as an opportunity to plan for the future.

Both Haitian and Dartmouth representatives at the conference expressed their determination — as conference organizer Amita Kulkarni of TDC put it — "to turn ideas into reality." In addition to presentations and panel discussions, small teams focused on practical ways of improving Haiti in three crucial and related sectors: health care, economic development, and education.

Those working groups provided a mechanism "to use the combined strength of leaders from Dartmouth and Haiti" to push forward real projects that can improve circumstances in Haiti," said Kulkarni. Health care delivery science is built on the notion that teams can bring together disparate skill sets and expertise to get the highest quality care to the most people – to meet the needs of a given population – without wasting valuable resources. The working groups showed this science in action.

The working group on health care, for example, formulated a plan for a Level III Trauma Center (equivalent of a US Level I Trauma Center), an idea endorsed by the Haitian Ministry of Health. "Haiti is a wonderful setting for thinking about the science of health care delivery," said Dr. Peter Wright, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and a leader in Dartmouth’s efforts in Haiti, "for thinking about how you set up a trauma center where there is not one there."

"Where there is no science, there is no state."

The working group on education tackled two of Haiti’s biggest problems: its brain drain (84% of Haitians who graduate from university leave Haiti) and its lack of trained scientists and engineers. "We cannot build a bridge without calling in foreign assistance," said Madame Michèle Pierre-Louis, director of FOKAL and the former Prime Minister of Haiti. "Where there is no science, there is no state."

To boost a struggling economy, the working group on economic development identified an area in especially great need: Les Nippes, the poorest of the ten departments of Haiti. Most Haitians in Les Nippes live in severe poverty. To address this underlying issue, the group members proposed an "Integrated Economic Zone," a complex bringing together five areas that contribute to a robust economy: housing and construction, agriculture, animal husbandry, tourism, and light industry.

After selecting and developing projects in each working group, the conference participants presented their proposals to World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim and Dr. Alexandre Abrantes, World Bank Special Envoy to Haiti. Kim was realistic but optimistic in his feedback. "Everything is about finding sustainable financing," he said. "I think that the requirement for enormous creativity is great."

Hear World Bank President Kim’s feedback on the projects selected in health care, economic development, and education.

Haitian band Lakou Mizik and Haitian street artist Jerry Rosembert put Haitian-inflected exclamation marks on the Symposium. Lakou Mizik played songs of love and loss and homeland. Rosembert created two colorful murals, taking inspiration from the committed, collaborative union of the Haitian and Dartmouth communities.