Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Features

December 17, 2013

A doctor's legacy

Once-condemned doctor turns to helping Haitians

(Continued)

In the years that followed, Fournier focused on community health and finding new ways to provide health care for the homeless, immigrants and schoolchildren in South Florida, projects funded with more than $71 million in grants he secured. He served for 25 years as associate dean for community health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

In Miami's Little Haiti, he participated in health fairs and helped fund a medical clinic at the Center for Haitian Studies. He developed a program to provide comprehensive health care to schoolchildren in Miami-Dade County's impoverished, largely immigrant neighborhoods. Today, 11,000 students receive care that includes vision, dental and mental health services at clinics based in 10 area schools.

Fournier also invented a device that allows women to privately screen themselves for sexually transmitted infections, something that researchers who tested the device among Haitian women in Miami noted was valuable in a community still stung from the AIDS stigma and reluctant to divulge personal information to doctors.

The doctor worked to redeem his early mistakes with Haitians by becoming fluent in Haitian culture and Creole, the country's most widely spoken language, says Marleine Bastien, a longtime Haitian-American advocate who has worked on health care issues in Little Haiti with Fournier since the 1980s.

"It lessens the impact of his involvement, the fact that he was able to leverage it with such good work over the years, always trying to understand the people ... and making them feel important enough to invest his time, to learn the language and bring information about prevention and access to health care to them," Bastien says.

Soon, the culture Fournier found charming but mystifying when his first Haitian AIDS patient showed up in 1979 became like a second skin.

In 1994, Fournier co-founded Project Medishare, a nonprofit that provides health care in rural Haiti, far from the from the resources centralized in the country's teeming capital. It was then that he made his first trip to one of the world's most impoverished nations.

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