I was honored to speak at the opening of Haiti’s national teaching hospital on April 28. The Haitian flag bears a phrase meaning “strength through unity,” and the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais – also known as HUM – is a shining example of the power of unity. Many of our committed staff at BWH have worked tirelessly in Haiti to design, build and outfit the facility, including Dr. David Walton from the Division of Global Health Equity, who played an instrumental role in shepherding HUM from ideas to reality. I admire and commend David as well as the countless others whose collaboration and guidance helped transform a rice field in the Haitian countryside into a world-class teaching hospital.
The speakers at the opening ceremony reflected the true joint effort that brought HUM to fruition, including Haitian Minister of Health Florence Guillaume, Dr. Paul Farmer of Partners In Health and chief of BWH’s Division of Global Health Equity, Partners President Dr. Gary Gottlieb, David Meltzer of the American Red Cross and Dean David Golan of Harvard Medical School. As Dr. Farmer said at the opening: “This hospital is the culmination of a dream dating back a quarter-century and underlines our commitment to the country and people of Haiti, which is stronger than ever after the earthquake.”
The day’s events included tours of HUM, and I was truly impressed by the forward-thinking features throughout the 300 bed facility. The hospital is wired with a fiber-optic data connection, and the operating rooms have video cameras embedded in the lights. These cameras allow a surgeon at BWH or anywhere else in the world to watch an operation at HUM and offer consultation in real time, improving the quality of care and patient outcomes. HUM also has its own medical-grade oxygen concentrator, which is connected to a system of pipes embedded in the walls to bring oxygen to each and every patient bed.
Equally impressive were the “green” features that help HUM be as ecologically friendly as possible. It was a delight to walk along the open air corridors, and many areas have large windows. These features leverage Haiti’s temperate climate to increase air circulation and provide natural ventilation while also helping prevent transmission of airborne infections. Large banks of solar panels line the roof, and on sunny days HUM creates all the electricity it needs to function.
The Brigham has deep ties with Haiti, and we cherish the partnerships and friendships we have built in this country. As Haiti strengthens its medical infrastructure and systems, we will continue to partner with them in support of these efforts. One of my favorite moments from the opening ceremony was when I stood at the podium and asked Haitian Minister of Health Florence Guillaume if BWH could be a sister hospital for HUM. Despite my halting Creole, the answer was an emphatic yes, and she came up to the podium and gave me a hug to seal the deal. As they say in Haiti, Men anpil, chay pa lou—with many hands, the burden is light.
Below are pictures from the hospital’s opening.