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A Doctor’s Vision

November 15, 2011

Today I began collecting information drop by drop for COPSA’s website and distilling it in a very preliminary way.  As I was working I realized that this information was inextricably related to elements of the post I published this morning, and I decided it was important to share it with you.  My admiration for the doctors and for what they are doing cannot be expressed adequately.  These men are driven by a love for their country and their countrymen that goes far beyond patriotism.  They are demonstrating that love in practical, vitally important and courageously ambitious ways.  They envision a better Haiti and show amazing initiative in applying themselves diligently to help that vision come to be.  I want you to get to know these men as I do.

COPSA, the Organization for Professional Health Coordination, is the brainchild of Dr. Mane Ricot Felix, a native of Saint-Marc who works in his home city as Coordinator of Extension Sites for the Voluntary Tracking Center and Antiretroviral Drug Treatment Program with GHESIKO, The Haitian Group for the Study of Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections, an NGO based in Port-au-Prince.  In 2000 the Haitian government recognized GHESKIO as a public utility, a status it reserves for institutions “essential to the welfare of the Haitian people.”  GHESKIO does research and provides services in the areas of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and reproductive health.  It is recognized internationally for its excellence.  If you are interested in learning more about GHESKIO, you can visit their website at http://www.gheskio.org/

During his student days at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at the State University of Haiti (UEH) , Dr. Felix was determined to find ways to improve the quality of healthcare in his country.  Upon completing a rotation at Larkin Community Hospital in Miami, Florida, and graduating from UEH in 2008, he recrutied some of classmates and associates—doctors, nurses, psychologists, technicians and other medical professionals—to help him realize his dream.They came together as COPSA, which was registered with Haiti’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour in June 2009.

Since its inception COPSA has organized educational events around the World Health Organization’s World Health Days calendar.  Last December 1st they put together an information session to mark World Aids Day.  In March they staged presentations around International Women’s Day on the 8th and World TB Day on the 24th. COPSA’s goal is to soon host events for every World Health Day.

In October COPSA launched its most ambitious project to date.  The COPSA-Haiti Nursing Institute and Laboratory in Saint-Marc opened its doors on the 24th.  Its 244 students are enrolled in nursing (4-year), nursing assistant, laboratory technician and pharmacy technician programs.  [Note:  I had previously reported a considerably higher number of students, but many withdrew for various reasons,]

At the nursing institute Dr. Felix works closely with Dr. Joseph Carsen Appolon who is on staff at the hospital in De Thomazeau, his hometown in Haiti’s West Department (province), northeast of Port-au-Prince.  The doctors were classmates at medical school where both Dr. Felix and Dr. Appolon served terms as Class President.  Dr. Felix also served a one-year term as Official Faculty Delegate to the university’s council.  He continually seeks to expand his knowledge of medical matters, traveling to health conferences in the United States as he is able.

COPSA is an independent organization that receives no government funding.  All activities outside of the nursing institute have been financed by Dr. Felix.  The nursing institute operates soley on student fees.

COPSA’s long term goal is to build a free hospital providing quality care for those who have no means of paying.  Dr. Felix hopes to achieve that goal in five years.  He says he hopes I will be in Haiti long enough to help him with that project.

What Dr. Felix has invited me to share in is beyond my wildest dreams.  It draws together my passion for the poor, my training in healthcare, and my accumulated knowledge in a number of what seemed to be unrelated areas.  It presents apparently unlimited opportunities to serve our Lord in substantial ways that are exciting, meaningful and fulfilling.  Although I still do not fully understand it, I am gratified and encouraged by Dr. Felix’s confidence in me and his willingness to make me a partner in his dream.

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