- Transnational health interventions and humanitarianism
- Global health education
- Community-based mental health and psychosocial service trainings
- Moral economy
- Haiti, North America
My research focuses on the social and moral dimensions of transnational health interventions. I am particularly interested in the interface between international organizations and diverse health practitioners in impoverished settings.
My dissertation, “‘Where They Need Me’: The Moral Economy of International Medical Aid in Haiti,” is based on fieldwork carried out in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti from 2007 to 2009. There, I conducted ethnographic research on international medical aid in a large public hospital, where over forty international agencies and organizations carry out a wide array of health interventions. This study examined the tensions between material and intangible gifts and services, the roles of Haitian health workers as they simultaneously implement international programs and prepare for emigration, and the moral and emotional dimensions of international aid as experienced by providers, recipients and administrators. I have been working in Haiti since 1997; previous research includes an analysis of local illness classifications in the context of environmental degradation and poverty, and a study examining medical humanitarianism and health as a human right for Haitian nationals in a Dominican border hospital.
My current project is an ethnographic study of global health education in North American medical schools. With the tremendous rise of global health training programs in the last decade, new partnerships are being developed between American and Canadian universities and clinical sites and universities in the Global South. These partnerships promote the retention of “local” health workers as a key component of strengthening health systems and combating morbidity and mortality, which raises complex issues concerning obligation, responsibility and solidarity. My study will examine how information and values relating to these partnerships is communicated (both explicitly and implicitly) through emerging global health pedagogy.
I am developing a study of international trainings in the areas of mental health and psychosocial service provision in Haiti. The catastrophic 2010 earthquake highlighted the relative absence of formal mental health services outside of Port-au-Prince. While initial aid efforts in this area focused on exposure to trauma, depression has emerged as a source of concern for epidemiologists and researchers involved in global mental health movements. Recent studies claim that between 25-50% of the Haitian population may be suffering from symptoms of clinical depression. My research will examine the internationally-sponsored efforts to train community health workers and mid-level providers to identify, refer and treat mental illness in a context of resource-scarcity, medical pluralism and generalized economic and social insecurity.