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Fulbrighter Dr. Jacques Clerville is Using Epidemiology to Improve Haiti's Public Health System

Dr. Jacques Clerville is a former Fulbright scholar and Haitian primary care physician, with a master of public health in epidemiology from University of South Carolina, Arnold School. Today, Dr. Clerville is Haiti’s chief assistant of infectious diseases epidemiologic surveillance within the Ministry of Health and Population.

While Jacques Clerville was writing a medical prescription for a patient in the town of Les Cayes, he felt his work environment tremble for a few seconds. It was the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. Although Les Cayes was spared, thousands of people in Port-au-Prince lost their lives or were completely homeless. And that was not all, the aftermath of the earthquake led to a major consequence: an outbreak of cholera devastated the island almost 10 months later causing many deaths. As a physician facing these unprecedented challenges, Dr. Clerville began to see the need to deepen his knowledge in epidemic diseases.

In seeking to more effectively help the population, Clerville joined Doctors Without Borders, which established a cholera treatment center in Les Cayes. "This experience completely changed my perspective on health care and public health. I realized that I was limited with my skills and clinical knowledge," he says.

It was then that Clerville applied and was later selected among the ten best candidates to attend a year-long intensive training program in Infectious Diseases and HIV, funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) and in a partnership with the Université Notre Dame d’Haiti.

"Since then, I have seen epidemiology as a means to provide evidence-based information to improve medical and public health practice, particularly in Haiti where there is a lack of scientific literature."

Born in Les Cayes, Dr. Cleville moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he earned a medical degree from the Université Notre-Dame d'Haiti. After he completed his seven-year program with one year of social work, he started working in his hometown as a practicing primary care physician.

After the earthquake, he applied for a Fulbright scholarship through the U.S. Embassy in Haiti to pursue a master's degree in public health in epidemiology. "The Fulbright scholarship allowed me to pursue one of my dreams, which is to study in the United States.” Accepted at three universities in the United States, Clerville chose the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina (USC), because he knew it was one of the best public health programs in the country. At USC, he studied in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, participated in global health conferences and adapted his course with a focus on public health surveillance systems.

Clerville completed his degree, returned to Haiti and, most importantly he has been able to apply what he learned in the work field. “The Fulbright scholarship program is the stepping stone that helped me get a leadership position at the Ministry of Health and Population in Haiti.”, he says. Recently, Clerville has been involved in monitoring and evaluation, conducting site visits and overseeing the Epidemiological Surveillance Officers. He also has been attending project management-related workshops to increase capacity and success in health-related projects.

With the knowledge and skills he has acquired, Clerville dreams higher: he wants to teach Epidemiology at the university level. Indeed, he carries a lifelong mantra that he is fully committed to helping the Haitian people and making a difference into their lives by improving the health system.

Dr. Clerville is lecturing on how to analyze and display epidemiological surveillance data to Epidemiological Surveillance Officers (OSE) at the Ministry of Health and Population in Haiti.

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