UNIFA, Four Years of Growth

UNIFA Medical Students in the Laboratory

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.



Capping Ceremony at UNIFA School of Nursing

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.

JB lecture 6

International Visiting Dean Jeffrey Brand with Mildred Aristide on the UNIFA campus November, 2013


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!


UNIFA Opens a School of Nursing in Its Second Year

On October 1, 2012, the Medical School at UNIFA began its second academic year.  A new video highlights UNIFA’s progress and goals. 

Two hundred and fifty-four candidates successfully passed the admissions exam and were accepted as first year medical students.   One hundred and eighteen second year students returned to campus for their second year of studies (out of a total of 126 students who began in the fall of 2011).   A dozen new teachers joined the teaching staff, raising the faculty’s total teaching staff to over 18.












UNIFA offeres a full complement of science and medical coursework.   Language study (French, English and Spanish) continue to be requirements.

UNIFA was able to offer all second year medical students a partial scholarship to assist with their tuition.   A memo from the Office of the UNIFA President, Dr. Aristide, informed students that it was indeed the university’s goals to seek out scholarship aid for its students, as it announced this response to needs impatiently expressed by students.

UNIFA offered all second year medical students a partial scholarship.  A memo from the Office of the UNIFA President, Dr. Aristide, informed students that it was indeed the university’s goals to seek out scholarship aid for its students, as it announced this response to needs impatiently expressed by students.

Thanks to generous fundraising efforts in the US sponsored by the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund and Partnership for Education, Health and Democracy in Haiti, significant improvements were able to be made on campus: the auditorium was renovated; electric and plumbing infrastructure in the classroom building was repaired; new student desks were purchased; benches and outdoor seating were installed under shaded trees in the courtyards around the Medical School.




In early November 2012, the UNIFA launched its new nursing program.   Haiti faces an acute nursing shortage, exaccerbated when hundred new graduates of the state’s nursing school were killed in the January 2010 earthquake.  UNIFA’s nursing program aims to address this shortage.   UNIFA admitted 73 first year nursing students to its program.  These students  will complete a 4- year nursing program.  Five additional teachers joined UINFA’s teaching staff, while faculty from the medical school covers some core courses like chemistry and anatomy.  A simulated nurse’s practice room is being set up on campus.   In November, UNIFA held exploratory meetings with two US nursing schools to explore collaborative programs.


During the fall semester Dr. James Hudspeth, an instructor in Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, conducted a week long seminar to the second year students focused on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.  These two diseases are very common in Haiti, and are an important source of illness for doctors working in any aspect of medicine to know about.  The students learned essential information about both diseases, including molecular biology, epidemiology, history, diagnosis, prevention, and therapy.  This information will inform their subsequent 4 years of study and helps to frame a number of the other illnesses they will learn of in the years to come.

After classes, Dr. Hudspeth spent time with students, extending class discussions.

Professor residences at UNIFA

During the week, Dr. Hudspeth was housed on campus at one of the professor’s residences refurbished last year and set aside for visiting instructors.  His visit is part of UNIFA’s partnership with the Boston-based health organization Physicians for Haiti.  The group has a going a data bank of of physicians, nurses and instructors interested in teaching at UNIFA.  Four more visiting faculty will offer courses in the Spring of 2013.

UNIFA Medical School Enters its Second Semester

The second semester of Medical School at UNIFA began on January 9.   After three months of intensive Spanish language training,  core first year medical school courses began: anatomy, embriology, histology, medical ethics, physiology and bio-chemistry. Haitian doctors Francis St. Hubert, Pierre Gaetjeans and Lantz Etienne joined their Cuban counterparts on the UNIFA medical faculty.  Newly purchased laboratory equipment – microscopes, prepared slides and anatomical models, also arrived mid-semester as teaching supplements for the first year curriculum.  The 126 students, initially divided into 4 sections for were put into two, groups, Group A and B.  Students continue their study of Spanish in the mornings, while the core Medical School courses are taught in the afternoon.   An English course has been added, to provide proficiency at a time where English is increasingly gaining ground in Haiti; and a French writing class (two class hours a week) devoted to strengthening writing skills has also been added.

Students are in class from 7:30 to 5:00, five days a week. Newly installed internet access will broaden research capacities and the availability of online teaching material.

Visiting Professorships: Partnership with Physicians for Haiti

Since its founding in 2001, one of UNIFA’s goals was to open its doors to ideas and teachings beyond Haiti through hosting international lecturers. That is why 22 professors’ residences were constructed less than a 10 minute walk from the main classrooms and administration building, and in close proximity to the student dorms. In early December 2011, Dr. Aristide met with six members of Physicians for Haiti, a Boston-based health organization, to explore the possibility of a partnership that could begin to bring visiting professors and lecturers to UNIFA on a rotating basis. The founding members of the group understood that the long term solution to Haiti’s health crisis – worsened by the earthquake – lay in training more Haitian health care professionals. They committed to focusing their skills and energy on medical education in Haiti on the principles of “partnership, bidirectional education and health equity.” On January 19, 2012, a memorandum of understanding was signed to implement a partnership for medical education between UNIFA and Physicians for Haiti. One of the key terms of this agreement is a commitment by the organization to create a pool of visiting instructors who will teach medical students at UNIFA. During their stay, these visitors will be hosted by UNIFA. The teaching program will be monitored and evaluated by both institutions. In addition, the agreement signed provides that the two institutions will collaborate on research projects.

Dr. Lopa Basu, the first visiting instructor recruited by Physicians for Haiti arrived in March.  She holds a masters degree in public health and is currently in the medical residency program at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to that, she was a research associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health & Human Rights. Dr. Basu taught the first half of a two week class (20 class hours) titled: Introduction to public health and social determinants of health. During the second week, she was joined by Dr. Ruben Frescas, who also holds a masters degree in public health and was a teaching assistant at Loyola University School of Medicine. The focus of Dr. Frescas’ lectures was the social determinants of health.

Professors’ residences

Dr. Lopa and Dr. Frescas spent their two weeks as visiting lecturers at UNIFA in one of the eight newly renovated professors’ residences on campus. The 22 residences are individual bungalows with a kitchen, living space and 2 to 3 bedrooms. The residences, like the dorms, were once occupied by victims of the January 20, 2010 earthquake seeking shelter. From July to September UNIFA worked with the families in the professors’ residence, the local magistrate’s office and various international groups to help these individuals relocate. Renovations started in December 2011. Cuban instructors and an attendant reside in five of the other buildings.

Cafeteria service

The long days on campus (7:30-5:00) necessitated offering students, faculty and staff food services at an affordable price. Space was identified for a cafeteria and estimates received on the cost of equipment and construction. However, UNIFA was not financially prepared for this expense. Evelyn Perrard, UNIFA secretary general and former director of the country’s national school lunch program could not wait. With a small staff of two cooks, 2 assistants, four servers and someone at the cash register. Mme Perrard set up a breakfast and lunch program capable of serving the entire UNIFA community. Balanced meals that include a fresh fruit, a vegetable and as much local produce as possible, are prepared in one facility and carried to the auditorium where chairs and tables are set up to temporarily serve as a cafeteria. Breakfast costs 20 gourdes (about .50 USD), lunch 60 gourdes (1.42 USD); or both meals for a discounted 75 gourdes (1.78 USD).

By June the Medical School at UNIFA will have completed its first full academic year in since the coup of 2004 and the earthquake of 2010.   It has taken tremendous hard work and persistence on behalf of all the students, staff and faculty to begin once more under very difficult circumstance and with limited resources.    We would like once more to thank Partners in Health and the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund for their financial support.    Students fees fund a portion of UNIFA’s budget, but we count on supporters internationally to fill in the rest.   If you would like to support UNIFA you can make a tax deductible donation via the Partnership for Education, Democracy and Health in Haiti.  Donations can be sent to:  Partnership for Education, Democracy and Health in Haiti,  PO Box 490271, Key Biscayne, Florida 33149.

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