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Friday 15 January |
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"As a doctor, you can change people's lives"

Dr. Jean R. Macenat is an immigrant to the United States. He’s proud to put his prestigious skills at the service of people without resources, mainly Caribbean and Hispanic people living in the Bronx (New York).

Jean R. Macenat was born and raised in Haiti. This Afro-Caribbean country is the poorest in the Americas and has no natural resources. Ninety-eight percent of the forests have been destroyed by human activity. In addition, the land has become unsuitable for cultivation and, being in an area with a tropical climate, this causes flooding. In 2010, it suffered an earthquake that resulted in some 300,000 victims.

In regards to politics, Haiti was a French colony and lived through a turbulent 20th century under various dictatorships and coups d’état. In recent decades it has tried to advance in democracy, but this has not resolved the human drama: 80% of the population lives in poverty.

Like thousands of Haitians, Macenat is an immigrant. He first went to Mexico, where he was able to study medicine at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP). As a result, he has a good knowledge of Spanish, as well as of Haitian Creole and French (the languages of his country).

A prestigious doctor in the Bronx

After finishing his studies, Macenat decided to go to live in the United States, where today he resides in New York. Specifically, he lives and works in the Bronx. He’s a very prestigious internist, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

When asked how he carries out his work, Dr. Macenat talks about people. “I’m serving the Hispanic population, which has little access to health care,” he explains.

“Patients need education.”

“Patients in the Bronx need a lot of things. First of all, education. Many don’t believe in traditional medicine and instead believe in healing with plants.”

Poor families with no access to health care

Economic problems also affect them. They’re usually low-income families and “if access to medicine requires paying, they’d rather do other things than go to the doctor.”

Jean R. Macenat is a doctor with Somos, a network of doctors who treat economically disadvantaged people in New York. “Somos doctors all have the same mission: to help the community, which is our own community… Our job is to help them avoid developing chronic diseases. That’s why we promote prevention, seeking timely diagnosis and treatment so that diseases don’t become chronic.”

In his work, he finds it important to speak with patients and their families so he can get to know them and the environment in which they move, taking into account their culture and traditions, as well as their social and economic situation. This isn’t always easy. Macenat approaches his work by seeing it very much as a vocation: “I feel part of the Hispanic and Caribbean community because I’m from the Caribbean, from a country that is neighboring the Dominican Republic. Most of my patients are Dominican and Caribbean, from Jamaica for example. I feel very proud of my work.”

“It’s not about working for money,” he says. “I am moved to see that as a doctor you can change people’s lives and make their lives better.”