Q&A – Reception, Organization, and Are You Really A Doctor Now?

Thanks, Aunt Barbara, for your questions.  

The first one was “How do you feel you are received by the Haitian people?”  That is a great question.  Occasionally smaller kids will be scared, but most kids seem excited to meet a “blan.”  Learning some kreyòl has helped with that reception – I think that being able to greet them in a familiar language takes away a little of the exotic-ness of meeting someone who looks totally different than the people they’ve grown up with.  In terms of my colleagues, I think they initially had their reservations about me, but the nurses especially have come to realize that I aim to be their ally.  They still sometimes think I’m pretty weird, getting all excited about things like “hand washing” (rarely done here!) but they have come to respect me.  

Parents of patients can have a few different reactions.  Some of them take my not-perfect kreyòl as an indicator that I must be not very bright.  Those folks usually come around after they see me providing good medical care around the unit.  Others are so surprised that I speak the language that they look to my translator to “translate” my kreyòl into kreyòl!  (This is not an issue of having an “American” accent; I’ve had many people comment on my near-lack of an accent.)  A few think that because I am an American (and therefore must be rich) I can provide them with things that they need.  This one is tricky, because by comparison even my meager fellowship salary makes me quite a bit richer than the people I encounter every day.  I usually answer (truthfully) that I am not paid to be here, and if they press further I tell them that I am not allowed to give people things.  (Mostly true – it is strongly discouraged.)  I would say the majority of the parents accept me as just another healthcare provider, and I like to think that they recognize my passion for providing good care.  

Second question: “What is the name of the organization that you work through? In other words, how did your being in Haiti come to be?”  I am in Haiti through a fellowship with a pediatric hospital in Boston and a Boston-based organization that has worked in Haiti for quite some time.  I’ve avoided mentioning the name of the organization on the blog, but it is an organization that gets mentioned in the news quite a bit in relation to its work in Haiti.  I am technically a volunteer with the organization, and I work as a pediatric hospitalist for the other half of the year when I am in Boston.  There is a second person in my fellowship who does the same thing but keeps the opposite schedule, so when I am in Boston he is in Haiti, and vice versa.  

Third question, easiest to answer.  “Are you a a full fledged pediatrician now or are you still in training?”  Yes, after finishing residency in June, I am a full-fledged pediatrician now.  When I am in Boston I sometimes supervise residents, and when I am here in Haiti I am one of two full-time pediatricians handling the patients who are admitted to the hospital.  I also teach residents here, which has been very rewarding.  

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  1. Mom

     /  April 18, 2012

    I continue to be amazed by the insights that you present on this blog. You have the ability to work in the trenches all day and then reflect in a philosophical and thought-provoking way when you write your entries. You’ve survived so many obstacles….the color of your skin, your so-young appearance (could you really be a doctor?), the fact that you are American (aka rich), and a woman on top of all that! You’ve really made an effort to speak the locals’ language…….both the staff and the patients have to appreciate that. All little pieces of a puzzle that seems to be coming together. I think that you chose wisely the title for your blog…..little by little the little bird builds its nest.
    Miss & love you…………~Mom

    • Thanks Mom! I’m pretty sure that as my mother you’re required to say something nice, but I appreciate the nice comment anyhow. I agree – it does seem that “little by little” things are progressing. Love you too.


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