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
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