‘INSPIRATIONAL’ HEALTHCARE CHANGE-LEADER SCOOPS TOP HAITIAN BUSINESS AWARD
A medical consultant who set up the first specialist clinic for the treatment of infertility in Haiti, and has since developed it into an internationally recognized IVF centre of excellence for the Caribbean, has been named Haiti’s Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year for 2017.
Setting out to overturn a widely held view in the development sector that poor, low-resource, countries are structurally unable to meet the needs of leading-edge technological companies, Dr Harry Beauvais says his success is a valuable lesson about the potential of the country as a whole.
“We’re showing that although Haiti is labelled as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with 80 percent of its people living in poverty, it still has the power to transform itself by embracing rapidly advancing technologies’, he told a conference at Duke University in the US recently.
Beauvais has always had a personal vision of a modern Haiti achieved through a combination of top-down and bottom-up change. That vision almost led him into engineering, but it was his mother, who’d had a long and rewarding career as a nurse, who inspired him to opt instead for medicine.
His determination was evident. A gynecologist by training, he followed his medical studies in Haiti with a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University, before working at The Cleveland Clinic, and then winning a fellowship in in vitro fertilization at Tel Aviv University.
A change-leader from the start, Beauvais returned to Haiti in 2004 and began to make his mark in public health – co-founding FOSREF, a foundation specializing in sexual and reproductive health, which helped to reduce HIV in Haiti from seven percent of the population to two percent.
Then, in June 2011 – despite major losses caused by the earthquake the previous year – he opened CHITAI (The Haitian Centre for the Investigation and Treatment of Advances Infertility), with the technical support of Duke University, and an impressive loan from family, friends and the bank.
“The utter determination of Harry Beauvais to overcome all obstacles, to learn from the best in the world, and to bring that knowledge home to his own community, is in the very best traditions of entrepreneurship”, said Martin Boute, Chairman of Digicel Haiti.
At a ceremony attended by 500 guests from government and the commercial world, Mr. Boute described Dr Beauvais as “an inspirational example of someone who believes not just in himself, his own idea, and his own enterprise – but in his own people and his own country as well.”
In just six years, CHITAI – which also won award in the services category – has built an enviable reputation.
The first two babies on CHIATI’s programme were born on October 6 and October 12, 2012. Since then, the clinic has facilitated the birth of 356 babies and has become known as the leading IVF treatment centre in the Caribbean.
With a staff of 24, it competes primarily with clinics in the US and the Dominican Republic – though, in fact, some 20 percent of its patients are from North America.
The ultimate aim is to build Haiti’s first centre of excellence for women’s health. Additional land is already sourced for the expansion, which will take around 12 months – adding cancer treatment and, perhaps, cardiology, a new operating theatre, and new surgical beds.
The Digicel entrepreneur awards, now in their eighth year, with a wide spread of finalists from across the country, are presented in five categories – agriculture and environment, construction, industry, services, and emerging businesses.
In the agriculture section, the award went to brothers, Hans and Patrick Woolley, their cousin, Gilbert Wooley, and their business, Taino Aqua Ferme, an all-natural, tilapia fish farm on Lake Azuei, the largest lake in Haiti. From a $2 million start-up in 2012, it now employs 80 and is still expanding.
Claiming the prize for the industry section was Marthe Fortuné Dorcéus, who, having hit hard times, decided at age 22 to fall back on what she was good at: traditional Haitian fare. Her drinks company, Mme Elie du Bon Crémas, is now selling up to 1,500 cases of crémas a month in high season, and her aim, to be number one in the market, is now in sight.
The prize for emerging businesses was won by Valerie Adrien, founder of United Shipping & Logistics (USL), who was chief of Co-ordination and International Affairs at Haiti’s National Ports Authority before starting USL in 2015. It’s now the major logistics carrier in Haiti and the Caribbean for a long list of blue-chip global brand names.
The construction prize went to Brendon Brewster, founder of Veerhouse Voda, who arrived in Haiti, with his father, to help after the 2010 earthquake. He now makes houses that are extreme-weather resistant, energy efficient, and five times faster to construct than traditional buildings – perfect emergency accommodation.
In that context, Mr Boute noted that 32 of the 50 business in the regional finals – 65 percent – had been founded since the 2010 earthquake, many by Haitians who returned home to help with disaster relief and stayed to contribute long-term.
The large number of female entrepreneurs – 19 of the final 50 – was inspiring too, he said: “a reflection of the powerful role played by women in Haitian society, and, increasingly, in the business community as well”.
Once again, this year’s entrepreneur award’s competition was run by Digicel in partnership with CFI, and supported by IDB, Sofihdes and Talkpool.