In the fall of 2014, UNIFA an accredited institution of higher education in Haiti, began its fourth academic year since its rebirth in 2011. The University was founded by former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When he returned to Haiti from forced exile in South Africa in the spring of 2011 he promised to dedicate himself to education in Haiti. Since then he has done just that, reopening UNIFA just six months after his return. There are now over 1000 students studying at the UNIFA campus in four degree granting programs: Medicine, Nursing, Law and Political Science, and a brand new program in Physical Therapy.
New School of Physical Therapy Opens
The new School of Physical Therapy, which opened on Oct 6, 2014, is the first Physical Therapy School in Haiti. (There are only a handful of Physical Therapists in Haiti and all were trained elsewhere.) This program is a partnership between UNIFA and Stony Brook University, State University of New York. This school answers the acute need for Physical Therapists in Haiti, a need that became particularly clear after the 2010 earthquake when many people suffered devastating injuries that require intensive rehabilitative treatment. Stony Brook faculty are working with UNIFA faculty to create the curriculum, and they will provide the much of the teaching staff for the courses particular to Physical Therapy.
Medical School Enrollment tops 500
At the Medical School there are now four classes years of medical students, for a total of over 500 young doctors pursuing their medical training at UNIFA. In January 2014, third-year medical students started clinical training at the University Hospital in Mirbalais run by Partners in Health and at the Bernard Mevs Clinic in Port-au-Prince. Third and fourth year students will continue their clinical training during the 2014-2015 academic year. Dr. Michaèle Amedé Gédéon was appointed as the new Dean of the School of Medicine in the spring of 2014. She is a former Minister of Health, and Director of the Red Cross. Since becoming Dean last spring she has brought tremendous skills, resources, energy, and enthusiasm to all of the health science programs at UNIFA.
Nursing School Will Meet High Demand for Nurses in Haiti
Berteline Beaulieu was appointed director of the School of Nursing in December 2013. She brings to the job over 25 years of experience in nursing, both as a practitioner and educator. Under her leadership second year nursing students completed a three week clinical rotation at Hopital St. Nicolas in the northern city of St. Marc, while nursing students will continue to gain valuable experiencing assisting physicians and nurses at the regularly scheduled health fairs at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy.
Law School Focuses on Human Rights and the Rule of Law
At the Law School, during its first year Jeffrey Brand, the former Dean of the University of San Francisco Law School, served as international visiting dean. In addition to support to the new school and helping to shape curriculum he led a two–week seminar with incoming students on international human rights law.
Visiting Faculty & International Partnerships Connect UNIFA to the Universities Around the World
During the first 3 years, UNIFA welcomed over a 12 visiting professors from the United States, Haiti’s Diaspora Community and one professor of law from Southern Cross University in Australia. The partnership with Stony Brook University promises a steady presence of international faculty within the School of Physical Therapy. Physicians for Haiti, a medical group in Boston continues to recruit and send medical faculty to teach at UNIFA. In April 2014, Dr. James Quesada and Nadine Quesada spent a week at UNIFA. Jim specializes in medical anthropology at San Francisco State University and Nadine is a practicing registered nurse. They co-taught a five-day course (to medical and nursing students) on the physical and psychological effects of trauma. Dr. Diana Chamrad visited in May and lectured on health behaviors. Visiting faculty are scheduled to teach in all three of the health sciences program during the 2014-2025 academic year.
For a second year, Physicians for Haiti hosted a three-week summer course in social medicine at UNIFA. This year UNIFA nursing students join UNIFA and American medical students in this innovative, multidisciplinary class. Fifteen international students, and 10 Haitian students participated in the course.
In September 2014, UNIFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS), based in Chicago. This partnership seeks to offer on line educational information to UNIFA and enhance UINFA’s information technology capabilities, to recruit other institutions of higher education into the collaborative effort, and involve RFUS faculty in the education of UNIFA and RFUMS students, and the delivery of charitable health-related humanitarian services in a clinical environment.
UNIFA is also collaborating with the diversity program, PRIDE, at NYU School of Medicine to develop a strategic vision for building a strong research division at UNIFA to address the many health and psycho-social problems facing Haiti.
Huge Demand and More Expansion
Demand for entrance at UNIFA continues to be overwhelming. For entrance into the three health sciences programs in the fall of 2014, one thousand three hundred candidates sat for the entrance exams. Before taking entrance exams students must first meet stringent high-school grade and test score requirements. Of the 1300 who met this mark and took UNIFA’s exams, approximately 350 were admitted to the school of medicine, the school of nursing, and the brand new school of physical therapy.
To welcome so many new students the UNIFA campus continues to expand. Over the summer of 2014, a second floor was added to the Nursing School and work began on a new building which will house the School of Physical Therapy. There are now three large building on the UNIFA campus, two if which will likely we further expanded in the near future.
Congratulations to the 350 new UNIFA students who began their studies in October, 2014. Congratulations to the faculty, staff and administrators who have made all this happen!