McGill Global Health Initiative: Saint-Marc, Haiti

Han Yao

The McGill Global Health Initiative in Haiti is a collaboration between the McGill University Internal Medicine department and Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante (PIH/ZL), a non-governmental organization based in Boston and Haiti. As part of this collaboration, internal medicine residents and attending internists travel to Hôpital Saint Nicolas (HSN) once a year. HSN is located in Saint Marc, a city 100km northwest of Port-au-Prince.

For one entire month, the McGill team worked closely with family medicine residents in the internal medicine inpatient wards, as well as consultants in the emergency room, under the supervision of both Haitian and McGill internists. This close collaboration rapidly becomes a mutual learning experience, where the sharing of ideas, knowledge and culture become the main driving force behind the partnership.

Through this experience, I learned that sustainability should be emphasized for every global health project, no matter how big or small. This is a lesson I will attempt to incorporate in my future projects. Amongst the many elements for sustainability, nothing rings truer than empowering local champions to help achieve a common goal. Working in global health, we realize quickly that true change has to be spearheaded by motivated local individuals, wanting to make a difference in their own society, rather than being temporarily maintained by an external organization. 

The lessons learned from this experience have led me to reflect on our role as health care providers as much from a local, nationwide and global perspective. This introspection has definitely influenced my day to day patient care, and shaped how I view our health care resources as a whole. This experience has encouraged me to incorporate global health in my future practice. Training to be a nephrologist, I want to work with the Northern aboriginal populations of Canada that often lack good renal and dialysis care. As well, being part of the McGill Haiti Global Health Initiative, I will continue to work closely with both past and future members, and hope to return to Haiti one day to continue our collaboration.


Han Yao is a third year internal medicine resident at McGill University. He became part of the McGill University Internal Medicine Haiti Global Health Initiative in 2015 and was part of the team that traveled to Haiti in Spring of 2016.