Dr. Eric Jerome Key Note Speech
Dear Chair of the Convention Dr. Serge Pierre-Louis
Dear Co Chair of the Convention Dr. Micheline Dole
Dear Chairman of the Board, Dr. Fritz Appolon
Dear President of the CEC, Dr. Maxime Coles
Dear Chairman of the Foundation: Dr. Emmanuel Francois
Dear Chair of the AMHE Relief Mission Dr. Paul Nacier
Dear Chapter Presidents,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
History did teach us that during the period following the Second World War, the trajectory of the Haitian intellectual class made a shift from the customary French European route and turned instead to the United States of America. As a result, there was a substantial exodus of our white coats, leaving the general population of our Caribbean island meaning Haiti in critical medical needs.
Indeed, two major factors helped to explain this situation:
1) the rapid American socio economic expansion, coupled with the African-Americans’ plight for social recognition, and
2) the inauspicious, ill-fated political climate of the regime in the motherland.
Consequently, some hospital departments in upper Manhattan, and then Brooklyn, were well staffed, and often managed, by Haitian physicians. At this very moment, one out ten of all black doctors in the U.S. is actually of Haitian ancestry.
Harlem Hospital in 1972 was one of those centers. In November of that particular year, historical determinism may have triggered the birth of Association of Haitian Physician Abroad. The first president, Doctor Lionel Laine and his colleagues, here tonight (Dr. Laurent Pierre Philippe, Dr. Emmanuel Francois), formulated a charter where two important principles were etched:
1. Reinforce our community capacity building.
2. Maintain a philanthropic hand toward Haiti through the “Faculté de Médecine”
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted tonight to report to you that our 40-year-old organization, the AMHE, albeit dogged with skirmishes of maturity, is alive, strong and thriving.
Dear friends, I was born, in this picturesque city planted with flamboyant, hibiscus, bougainvillea trees, cajoled by the unremitting tropical wind, the “alize,” surrounded by writers and poets who taught me chess, music, poetry but above all, humanistic values. Obviously, by the time I joined AMHE, serving the people while away from my native land became my “raison d’ être.”
I am honored and privileged to stand before you with the unique perspective cumulating from so many leadership positions in this organization. I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to share with you what I really saw on the mountaintop.
1. Community Affairs
Today, we are at a crossroad; the next decade has already begun.
As a community organization, we will continue to help educate the community in Health matters, and really, get at the forefront of any movement to support Haitian progress. We ought to help our members establish footholds in hospitals, and help to prevent hospital closings by asserting our influence through political networking. We need to support well-vetted candidates for public office via AMHE-Pac: an entity completely separated from our 501c3 organization.
We need to move fast and catch up with the ever-changing world of health care industry, a job creator and killer for the new and old generations. The Affordable Care Act is trying to fill the gap in health disparities by providing coverage to sizable group of Americans left behind. Our Haitian communities and other African-American communities, yearn for your help. We should continue to work with the AMA health disparities program, join the Arthur Ash Downstate center for health disparities to better follow the Leland Brown Ten Commandments.
Last December’s health disparities conference at the Brooklyn Marriott showed that AMHE has achieved the right connections. We hope the Office Minority Health at HHS will support our proposals. New financial realities oblige us to rely on existing resources. Pharmaceutical companies are no longer providing the support we used to receive.
It is clear that a competent administrative-secretarial staff is essential. We cannot afford to wait for next week. Let us act now.
Leader in Community Affairs
As in the past, AMHE must continue to take the lead. And we can do so because we have done it before.
The Assistant Secretary of HHS, Dr. Howard Koh, reminded us in a DC meeting of his affection and support of Haitian people. His penchant stemmed from the work of his twin brother, Harold Koh. As a young lawyer from Yale, Harold was consumed with the idea of securing the release of 245 Haitians stricken with HIV, who were incarcerated in Guantanamo. The NY Chapter archives recorded that AMHE sent some physician members to GTMO and helped generate a medical report to the Federal Judge. As a result, those incarcerated Haitians were released to the great satisfaction of the Clinton administration. We worked in tandem with
“Médecins Sans Frontiers,” who had initiated the process. The Wall street journal, last week
quoted Harold Koh as a Yale School Scholar a proponent of” Legal transnationalism”.
Last December, the National President Dr. Pierre Paul Cadet bestowed awards on some of our AMHE colleagues. That reminded me of when the NY chapter and the entire AMHE, from Miami to New Jersey, from Montreal to Chicago, via Boston helped to prepare the historical Brooklyn march to City Hall. The sensation of the up and down movements of that magnificent and gorgeous Brooklyn Bridge, swaying under the weight of some 50,000 plus Haitian-Americans, is still with me today. Hospital departments in New York were brought to a standstill. Garment factories had to close. This march was in response to a lack of respect for the people who represented the first and only black republic in the world, one that gained independence by successfully overthrowing the bonds of slavery. Few today understand that the African slave trade was perpetrated by Arabs, and some African countries as well as the European colonial powers.
History has discredited that stand of the US federal authorities. HIV, like Syphilis is now a chronic disease.
AMHE, as a community leader, was at the forefront, gaining visibility and respect for Haiti and its people.
That was then. Today, young Haitian American physicians, have to stand up to build on the efforts of those marchers by infiltrating the old AMHE system and keep the flame burning.
Young Haitian Americans stand up to challenge Health disparities, seek action to reduce the disproportionate medical care gap between rich and poor people.
I will not give you a laundry list of AMHE accomplishments in Haiti. But I should emphasize some key points.
Return to Haiti was just the fulfillment of the mandate of our charter that had been more or less ignored. One CEC president, Dr. Jean Talleyrand, courageously made that happen in 1997.
Subsequently the Chicago convention, entitled Building professional Alliances, marked a milestone in our thinking. For the first time we formulated the concept that Haiti development required professional alliances of engineers, agronomists, doctors, nurses, others health care providers, and lawyers. We invited many people, including the co founder of PIH Paul Farmer who succeeded in building a state of the art hospital in Mirebalais, another one in Ruanda. We invited Geshkio of Dr. Jean Pape, which expanded their outreach to the country and helped in decreasing the incidence of AIDS in Haiti. One speaker at the Hypertension symposium became a National Stroke specialist. We provided 34 category one CME credits. We laid groundwork for the Visiting Professor program, and others that followed.
We have been a pioneer organization.
With multiple accords signed by the CEC, we officially finalized our programs and Missions. We envisioned, developed and implemented the MSSP/HIV unit at the State University Hospital of Haiti with ITECH, CDC etc. The Visiting Professor Program, AMHE Medical relief mission, La saline program of New Jersey chapter, had to be tallied. Others, like the Resident Exchange Program conceived by Dr Maxime Coles in 2005 and relaunched by Dr. Leslie Kernizant of Simact(2007), has been administered by the Relief Mission /AMHE Foundation.
Following our multiple visits in Haiti, the American-Canadian Consortium initiative, promoted by the late Dr. Ruben Pamies, gave us a sound understanding of the medical issues. AMHE members served at the steering committee. The four medical Schools needed to annually graduate 600 Docs in order to provide good care to the population. Those goals were not met. Today only 2800 Haitian physicians have remained to serve the nation of Haiti, well below the OMS guidelines. Continuing medical education, the concept of providing 25 cme credits per year to each Haitian doctor, is still lacking. These are issues that require the attention of the leadership of AMHE-AMH and MSSP.
III. The Legacy
The NY chapter made history by having a program where young speakers were part of the faculty and that was the beginning. The last election in NY is real testimony of that changing of the guard. We have started the process of rejuvenation by asking the baby boomers to gracefully and peacefully prepare a ten-year transition, but to stay as the Pretorian guard. More work has to be done to leave the new group a clean slot with no financial burden, but instead a strong database including a digital repository of events, photos and documents. We have to extend our philanthropic goals to the young Haitian American. Our presence in the “bateys” in DR, and in St Marteen slumps, gave us the stretch to look at Senegal, Cote d’ Ivoire, Zambia and South Africa, where HIV diseases are so prevalent. Our own experience in Haiti could provide invaluable support. We need an International AMHE. We have to write proposals to extend our outreach and invite members beyond our ethnic group to join for the sake of Humanity.
We can tap resources at the Clinton Foundation, WHO, the World Bank and other organizations.
Young Haitian Americans, stand up to let the
Haitian American organization, expand the horizon for a better a stronger AMHE. Imagine what one of our independence heroes did. Alexandre Petion extended a hand to Simon Bolivar to help the liberation of South America.
Dear friends I thank you, the Chairman, and the co chairman, for allowing me to give the last speech of this outstanding, memorable, extraordinary convention.
Maya Angelou wrote that Courage is the mother of all virtues. Let us bolster the courage to be united not only among us, but also with smaller medical entities, and focus on our challenges, in the US and overseas. Moreover, Let us provide our two foundations with the means to grow by inviting wealthy donors to join us in key roles. The time has come to resurrect three vectors, an international commission, the permanent commission for the convention, and a financial commission under the general treasurer.
Let’s reach for the next echelon.
And together let’s make the Association des Médecins Haitiens á l’ Étranger the pearl, the pride, the envy of the diaspora.
Eric L Jerome, MD FACP
President of AMHE Foundation