“This is My Haiti” Dr. Elmide Nazaire, Director of Infirmary Saint Etienne
May 7, 2012 – Jennifer Lang, Program Manager
Doctor Elmide Nazaire, Director of Hope for Haiti’s Infirmary Saint Etienne, embodies the ideals that define our mission. When she’s not consulting on the over 150 cases seen per week and managing ten staff members, she gives back to her community and leads by example.
Dr. Elmide’s family home is in Beaumont, Grand Anse – a small town close to Jeremie, a city known for its traditional Ra-Ra bands and annual Flag Day celebration on May 18. Her father was a successful farmer, teacher and school director, and the first elected Mayor. Her mother supported her father’s passion for nature by selling agricultural goods as a businesswoman. The pair encouraged Elmide and her siblings to pursue the best education, no matter the locale.
“I always wanted to be a doctor, even when I was little and we were playing,” says Elmide of her childhood dreams. After succeeding in competitive primary and secondary schools, Elmide sat for and excelled on the national scholarship examination to study medicine in Cuba. “My father’s passions were nature and medicine, but my mother focused on medicine. My brother considered both studies but finally chose Agronomy, so they were excited and very proud when I chose medicine!”
Studying in Cuba offered opportunities rarely accessible to Haitian students due to a lack of resources. “The Cuban medical system is much more advanced, and services are provided free of charge for patients,” remembers Dr. Nazaire as she contemplates the differences between her past and present. Patients in most Haitian hospitals are often asked to pay for their own sheets, food, and IV transfusions. Still, Elmide never hesitated to return and serve her country. “I always dreamed of studying abroad, and my scholarship in Cuba allowed me to achieve that goal. Of course, I would love to travel, but there is nowhere I would prefer to live my life. I love Haiti too much!”
Dr. Elmide’s love of and hope for her country describe her day-to-day work with Hope for Haiti. When asked to share her most poignant memories, she speaks of treating patients in a makeshift triage center at the Hotel Villa Creole in Port au Prince following the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010. She tells me about Joel, the patient who returns each morning to the Infirmary – even when follow-up is not needed! – because he is so encouraged by the improvement in his condition. She describes her nation as “calm and tranquil,” a view so rarely expressed in the media following years of political turmoil and natural disasters.