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Crossroads: Understanding Haiti and its History in Today's Global Political Climate

  • Vassar College 124 Raymond Avenue Poughkeepsie, NY, 12604 United States (map)

Biographies of Panelists

Ernest Barthélemy M.D.

A rising leader in the emerging field of global neurosurgery, Dr. Barthélemy’s principal

career focus is on the development of neurosurgical capacity in Haiti. Dr. Barthélemy is

Vice President of the Fondation Haïtienne pour le Développement de la Neurologie et de

la Neurochirurgie (FHADNNEC), Haiti’s professional society for the advancement of

clinical neurosciences.

As a member of the Vassar Haiti Project’s board of directors, he brings passion for

Haitian history and culture, interest in the development of VHP’s educational and

medical initiatives, and an overarching commitment to social transformation in Haiti.

Dr. Ernest J. Barthélemy is a neurosurgery resident at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York

City and a Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellow at Harvard Medical School in Boston. A

lifelong New Yorker born and raised in the “Little Haiti” district of Brooklyn, NY, Dr.

Barthélemy is the son of immigrants from the southern Haitian city of Grand-Goâve. He

completed his undergraduate studies at New York University and a graduate degree at

Columbia University’s Teachers College before obtaining his medical degree at the Icahn

School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where he graduated with distinctions in research,

education, community service and clinical excellence. Dr. Barthélemy is also a student at

the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Sabrina Jaar Marzouka, JD, MPH

Sabrina was born and raised in the Caribbean island of Haiti, where she attended law

school and secured her judicial degree. She also holds a Bachelor in Political Science

from Trinity College, and a Master’s in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins University

School of Public Health.

Sabrina’s career started in Haiti, working for a private Haitian not-for-profit community

based agency, the Centers for Development and Health. As the Assistant Director she

was responsible for the implementation of numerous comprehensive programs aimed at

improving the quality of life of the Haitian people, from Public Health services to

education, housing and economic development activities.

In 1992, Sabrina moved to Poughkeepsie, NY, where she joined the Catharine Street

Community Center as its Executive Director. Under her leadership, the Center expanded

its services through the development of innovative programs responding to the needs of

the community. Her efforts awarded her with the Marist College President Award in


In 1997, she joined the Dutchess County Department of Health and served as the Director

of Health Planning and Education, and soon after as the Assistant Commissioner. In

March 2015, she was appointed as the Commissioner for the Department of Community

& Family Services.

A mother of three, Sabrina is fluent in English, Spanish, French and Creole. Despite her

busy schedule, she finds time to support ongoing efforts to help the vulnerable and

underserved, both in her community and in the world, especially in Haiti.

Roger Lefort PhD

Roger was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After a brief stint in Puerto Rico, he

moved to New York City in 1999 to pursue his studies. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in

organic chemistry from Hunter College and doctoral degree in neurobiology from

Columbia University Irving Medical Center where he is currently an assistant professor

and researcher in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology.

He leads a translational research program focused on the elucidation of molecular

pathways leading to memory loss in various neurodegenerative diseases, such as

Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.

Roger’s interests extend far beyond science, and he is passionate about education and

about helping the vulnerable and disenfranchised, especially in his beloved Haiti, where

his family still resides. In 2016 he co-founded ReplanteArt, a pilot project designed to

promote sustained local economic development through art and creativity. This project

was the catalyst for his long-standing and very rewarding collaboration with VHP, with

whom he traveled with to Chermaitre, in Haiti to launch the project in March of 2018.

Ismail Rashid PhD

Ismail Rashid grew up in Freetown, Sierra Leone and has been teaching at Vassar

College since 1998. He received his BA Hons in Classics and History from the

University of Ghana, MA in Race Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo,

Canada and PhD in African History from McGill University. His primary teaching

interests are pre-colonial and modern African history, African Diaspora and Pan-

Africanism, and International Relations. His research interests include subaltern

resistance against colonialism, public health, and conflicts and security in contemporary


Among his recent books are West Africa’s Security Challenges (2004 with Adekeye

Adebajo), The Paradox of History and Memory in Postcolonial Sierra Leone (2013) (with

Sylvia Ojukutu-Macauley) and Understanding West Africa’s Ebola Epidemic: Towards a

Political Economy(2017) (with Ibrahim Abdullah). Some of his published papers include:

“Epidemics and Resistance in Sierra Leone During the First World War,” Canadian

Journal of African Studies, Vol 45, No 3, 2011, 415-439; “Islamist Militancy in West

Africa,” Conflict, Security and Development, Vol. 13, 2013, 169-190, and “Sierra Leone:

The Revolutionary United Front,” in Criminalized Power Structures: The Overlooked

Enemies of Peace, (2016) edited by Michael Dziedzic.

Rashid also mentors graduate African students and rising faculty colleagues in various

Africa universities through his voluntary service as an Adjunct faculty for African

Leadership Center of King’s College London and the University of Nairobi; Chair of the

Advisory Board of the African Peacebuilding Network of Social Science Research

Council (APN-SSRC); and Vice President of the West African Research Association

(WARA). He is also one of the two editors of Afrika Zamani, the journal of African

History produced by the Council for Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)

based in Dakar, Senegal

Earlier Event: January 18
Haitian Art at YWCA Greenwich
Later Event: April 25
Art & Soul Gala