Keynote Speech Delivered at the 39th Annual AMHE Convention at Norfolk Virginia
A Perspective of the Future of the AMHE
Yves J. Manigat MD FACS
Dear Chairman of the AMHE Board of Trustees Dr Fritz Apollon
Dear Chairman of the AMHE Foundation Dr Emmanuel Francois
Dear President of the Central Executive Committee Dr Pierre Paul Cadet
Dear Chapters Presidents,
Dear Colleagues, Spouses, AMHE Children, Friends and Guests
Forty years ago the seeds were planted at the inception of the AMHE by a group of colleagues with determination and insight led by Dr Lionel Laine and Dr Emmanuel Francois, to make it today the oldest, the most stable, the longest active ethnic medical association in the United States after the National Medical Association, and one, if not the first of the associations of professionals of haitian descent.
It has been a long road full of glorious interventions mixed with deceptions, loaded with passionate activities as well as some torpid and unsavory moments , but with a steady string of victories to bring us closer to the goal set by these visionaries.
Our platform has been under execution with no deviation, a challenging but not necessarily a flawless process.
From this meeting of November 1972 at Harlem Hospital, the flame has spread from state to state,from country to country to lead to the creation of the various chapters as we know them.
The Association has been on target in fulfilling its multiple functions toward its members, toward their respective communities, toward the medical profession, and toward Haiti our motherland.
Our platform had been designed with a social impact, a cultural goal, a community purpose, a patriotic vision and a scientific background. Guided by these credences, we have embraced the Association with conviction, and the results are gratifying, the accomplishments countless, with the AMHE being so variously characterized in different circles:
The AMHE has been well recognized for its participation in the fight for the dissociation of the name of Haiti from AIDS and has been known as
- watchdog for Human Rights
- response team to the natural or man made disasters that had afflicted Haiti
- sponsor of a Visiting Professor program at the School of Medicine State University of Haiti, now relocated at the at the Justinien University Hospital in Cap-Haitian,
- provider of care in various healthcare Institutions in Haiti l
- promotor of several Advanced Special Care programs in Haiti
- network builder among our professionals practicing in the United States.
- Consensus Builder on health issues related to Haiti.
- dispenser of the advances in the Science of Medicine through our local scientific meetings and through our 39 annual conventions
- public health educator through our radio programs and health fairs
- catalyst for sustained ties between the families of our members
- Humanitarian Agency by financing public education in Haiti in selected areas,
- facilitator of post graduate training in the US for selected residents from Haiti
and finally as a guarantor of the preservation of the Haitian Culture
The list goes on and on.
The detractors of the association continue however to deny its purpose ; some questioned its achievements; some can’t see any tangible. Maybe they need to be better informed.
All of these happenings did not take place over night; it took a lot of hard work. Relationships take time to build, whether it is in Haiti or anywhere else. With the changing administrations and the constant renewal of our leaders in Haiti, at times it seemed like a perpetual courtship. We are now solidly linked to the State University School of Medicine, to the AMH, to a number of Healthcare Institutions as well as to our Ministry of Health. The tenants may change but the doors are always open to us. These rapports are based on exchanges accumulated over the years, but they are also sealed on various agreements establishing our modus operandi .
We remember still the stormy discussions and the lengthy meetings, to stir up the ship off the stormy weathers encountered during this delicate journey. Internal dissensions have always existed. They also bring strength to an Association .
We have known our growing pains, identified in
The clash of personalities
The lack of confidence generated by the diversity of our political views, haitian politics that is
Our belligerent underlying make up.
Our lack of discipline
The personal interests superseding the common good
The largess of the association in handling its money
The lack of vision for the funds of the association to survive our own existences.
The foundation of the AMHE is solidly rooted. We are only on the first chapter, on the first phase of our evolution. The challenges are still big and they ought to be tackled right on.
Defining an efficient process of recruitment of our younger generations of physicians graduated from the American or Canadian Universities or more importantly designing a technique of retention of these youngsters is imperative to our survival. They continue to show up at our functions or our conventions with enthusiasm, but the Association has not been able yet to secure a long term commitment from them.
Every professional medical association is now feeling the crunch: the AMA, as well as the NMA and others. Their membership is shrinking. The speciality organizations are doing better since their services and functions are so specific. But we are also special. Whenever they have to face their identity crisis or whenever Haiti has to go thru another calamity, God forbid, they are going to need the stewardship of the AMHE to satisfy their impulses. Make no mistake about it, they will not forgive us if the AMHE is not there for them.
A better scenario can be conceived when the rise to glory and productivity of Haiti is on us, they again will need us to guide them, enlighten them for their legitimate participation in this turn around.There are in the horizon some early and promising signs to validate this possibility of change in Haiti; among them, the commitment of the current government to engage in the education of our youngsters- the construction of some new hospitals, like the Mirebalais project supported by Partners in Health – and more recently the Partnership Agreement between the Government of Haiti and the Government of the United States of America in order to tackle together the Health Issues pertinent to Haiti.A hint of good governance is also in the air with the recent declaration of the restoration of the independence of the Judiciary branch of government.with re-establishment of the rules of law in Haiti
Our structures within the AMHE are still deficient. It is about time to have a permanent office for the business of the association. It is time to have an administrative staff to replace the voluntary part time system of doers entertained by our zealous officers, so they can aspire to their expected roles as leaders and thinkers.The description of the job of our soon to be executive director is already on record. The finances necessary to make it a reality are still lagging behind although they are not totally nonexistent. A small group among our members inspired by Dr. Paul Nacier and Dr Bernard Poulard has come forward to make that dream reachable. The bulk of the membership is still to be heard from. We are confident that the example and the devotion displayed by the few will be followed in order to make the big leap this association need so much in order to get in this stratosphere of viable and efficient organizations.
An organization of the offices of the AMHE and consequently an organization of its finances is quintessential to the survival of this organization. Can we do it ?
It is not flattering to think that there may be some similarities in the state of the AMHE and the state of some under developed countries. We are however the elite. We need to be the example in reintroducing the concept of excellence in the psyche of our people, as it was practiced by the forefathers of Haiti. Indeed, they had to face the most difficult challenges in doing the unthinkable. There is also an urgency in reaching that goal. An amplification of our role cannot be done without an amplification of our finances. Our assets are currently restricted to the knowledge of our craft: the Science of Medecine which is in very great need in Haiti, but any intervention without a visible contribution in material and in technology may not be enough. It is time for us to reconcile these facts and to act upon them.
Our future can only be guaranteed by a strong organization, structurally, intellectually and financially. There is so much good will but not enough strength. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball. Let’s build this strength, for our own sake, for the investment we have already made, for the sacrifice of the pioneers who have departed from us and for those called to follow us . Our actions, our resolves and our results will be noticed and shared with other professional organizations.
Every body’s contribution is expected. The AMHE Foundation is now ready to handle any size of donation by direct transactions or through a trust. What happened to the ladies of the Association? These valiant figures who used to lead by their enthusiasm, their talents and their practicalities. Are we ready to be energized for the second lap of the association ?
About 10 years ago in the course of a retreat organized in Maryland by the Chairman of the Board Dr. Fritz Apollon , the facilitator of our deliberations trying to pinpoint our ambitions and aspirations asked the question
-”What would you like the editorial of the Newspapers in Haiti to be in the midst of your effort ?”
The answer was formulated in these terms
“AMHE: Catalyst of change in Haiti”.
Let’s do it. It is our Duty. It is our challenge to conquer.
Yves J. Manigat MD