Before becoming a volunteer for Konbit Sante, Dr. Victor Herson worked as a neonatologist for many years. A neonatologist generally provides care by diagnosing and treating newborns with conditions such as breathing disorders, infections, and birth defects, and consulting with obstetricians, pediatricians, and family medicine physicians about conditions affecting newborn infants. As his career started to wind down, Dr. Herson began to think of ways to productively use his experience and knowledge in a volunteer setting. A colleague at Connecticut Children’s Hospital, Dr. Adam Silverman, who is also a Konbit Sante board member, happened to reach out asking if Dr. Herson knew any neonatologists interested in partnering with him in Konbit Sante’s efforts to reduce neonatal mortality rates at Justinien University Hospital (JUH) in Cap Haitien. He responded, “Yes, I do, me!” And so began the relationship between Dr. Herson and Konbit Sante.
Dr. Herson made his first trip to Cap-Haitien in 2014, and focused on assessing the major causes of neonatal death and establishing priorities for intervention. He stated, “I was impressed with the partnership Konbit Sante had created with the pediatric services at JUH and the possibility of making a measurable impact on mortality and morbidity was exciting. I was hooked!” Since that first trip, he has been on several trips focused on teaching and training for the residents and nurses. He has worked on implementing a new program on the utilization of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) for newborns in respiratory distress. In addition, he has participated remotely in monthly reviews of newborn mortality, aimed at identifying clinical opportunities for improvement.
Dr. Herson shared, “I admire Konbit Sante’s commitment to build local talent, capacity, and resources both at JUH and in the surrounding community hospitals. In contrast to the ‘flying in and flying out’ clinics, this model requires the kind of long-term commitment and development of strong, trusted relationships which is a feature of Konbit Sante’s culture.” He added, “Konbit Sante’s principle in conducting the work on the ground, is to accept and embrace the idea that understanding the local culture is critical to the success of its mission.” During his time, Dr. Herson has been able to work with staff from Konbit Sante who exemplify these virtues, particularly Tezita Negussie, Konbit Sante’s Program Director, and Nathan Nickerson, Konbit Sante’s former Executive Director and current Strategic Advisor. He stated, “It isn’t always easy and there are lots of frustrations, but the short term successes and a focus on the long-term vision keeps me motivated to remain involved. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this organization.”