2022: Having a Holistic Approach: An Interview with Alain Casseus

August 26, 2022

Alain Casseus, M.D, PhD is a Principal Investigator at Partners in Health in Haiti.

What do you do?
I am a principal investigator for an HIV program in Haiti. Before that, I was a project manager for research and community-health related projects.

What is the biggest challenge you have in your position?
The biggest challenges in Haiti are the sociopolitical issues. We are having fuel shortages right now, so it’s difficult for staff to get to the field and for patients to get services. They either have to walk for hours or pay for a motorcycle, which then doesn’t have gas. Another big challenge is provider burnout, when you have 100 patients to see and you’re just trying to get through the day. This is also related to the lack of human resources. If there were enough doctors and nurses, providers wouldn’t be so tired by the end of the day. 

Why did you apply to the GHDI program? What did you hope to get out of it?
I’ve had an interest in global health because it’s holistic. We do this work in the field, but we don’t understand the underlying issues and how they impact a country’s health system. Prior to taking the course, we didn’t think about it that way. It’s been interesting to see how everything fits together.

What impact do you think GHDI will have on your career?
The analysis of the historical context will be very impactful for me. There was a board game we played that taught us how to think through the challenges faced in decision-making in a health system. Shortly after that course, I had a meeting in which a company offered us an electronic system that provides panels of tests for women and the first thing that came to mind was “oh, this is fragmentation!” I never would have thought of that before. It’s always interesting to have new technology that could help, but we don’t want to fragment the system even more. I keep going back to that board game because it’s making me see things that I didn’t see before.

What would you say to someone just starting out in healthcare in your country?
If you’re coming into healthcare to make money, don’t come. If you’re coming to help people, you’re welcome. Second, you’re never going to stop learning - not just to stay up to date with procedures and diseases, but to improve how you’re doing things. Just knowing the science will never be enough. You need to learn history, economics, etc. A doctor in Haiti is almost like a social worker. You need to have compassion. You can’t do anything without that. 

What do you think someone should know before applying to GHDI?
It’s a summer of work, that’s why it’s called an intensive, so you need to be prepared with that mindset. It’s been a very interesting experience, especially hearing from other people from so many different countries. The issues are the same everywhere. It’s a global village. We’re separated by oceans, but we’re close to each other. We just don’t realize it.