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Baystate Alum Offers Health Care - and Hope - to Haitian HIV Patients

April 29, 2016

Dr. Nessa Meshkaty, graduate of Baystate’s Medicine-Pediatrics residency and Infectious Disease fellowship, moved to Haiti in July 2015 to work with Dr. Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health, serving impoverished patients with TB and HIV.

Facing Harsh Realities

Meshkaty is working in a very challenging environment—Haiti has a hot, humid tropical climate, with enormous tarantulas and relentless mosquitoes, and shortages of food and electricity.

But, she says that dealing emotionally and psychologically with the harsh realities she witnesses every day is the hardest part of her work in Haiti. 

“My first week here, I lost a 17-year-old girl to pericardial TB. Port Au Prince is only a 2 hour plane ride from Miami but worlds away as far as resources. If she was born 2 hours away, she would be alive today.”

Project Dovetail Woman and Daughter in Haiti

Meet Monique

Monique is a 31 year-old Haitian woman living with HIV. When Meshkaty met her, she was hospitalized, frail, and unable to tolerate her HIV medication because she couldn’t afford food. 

After 6 weeks of regular meals and directly observed medication therapy, she can get up and dress herself. She is learning to sew and ready to work. (Pictured: Monique and her 11 year-old daughter, who was her caretaker)

Baystate Prepares You for That

Dr. Nessa Meshkaty Project Dovetail
Dr. Nessa Meshkaty

Nessa created the Dovetail Project to provide medical care, and food, shelter and water for vulnerable patients.

They have also set up a sewing collective so their patients can earn an income.

"I've learned how amazingly resilient people, particularly Haitians, are—even when they are in destitute poverty and up against every systemic battle possible."

Meshkaty says she has always been interested in global health. She was an intern at Partners in Health as a first year medical student before completing her residency and fellowship training at Baystate.

“My training at Baystate helped in so many ways. It was my stellar training that allows me to be prepared to put out any fire in any environment. Baystate prepares you for that.”

She believes her background in medicine, pediatrics and infectious disease is a perfect fit for international work. 

Appreciating the Victories

Meshkaty points to the many rewards of her work.

“I have seen firsthand what food, water, medication, and education can do on a community level. Despite all the challenges, there are many examples of victories and it is precisely those that keep us going on particularly hard days.”

Do It—But It Won't Be Easy

Meshkaty encourages other graduates who are considering working in global health.

“Be ok with not being able to very clearly measure your impact. Know that even a little bit makes a big difference. It will hopefully make you a better doctor and a better person. You will make lifelong friends. But it will not be easy. Not at all.”

> Learn about Baystate's residency programs

> Explore the Global Health Initiative: Residents Educated in Alternative Cultures and Health