Dr. Leandro Grimaldi Bournissaint

Dr. Grimaldi Bournissaint, thank you for giving your time to us today. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your current work in the public health sector in development. 
I am currently working on several projects. Let me mention a few things I am doing in Mexico and Central America: 1) Health policy consulting for international health agencies (World Health Organization, PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), NGOs and Governmental agencies as well :2) consulting for a few capacity building and systems development for Doctors Without Borders.

Are mission trips effective mechanisms in building effective health care systems?
A field trip constitutes the foundational platform on which we have got to base further actions and strategies to modify current situations. However, it does not represent a “magic bullet” solution for deeply rooted societal problems. We need to understand that it is imperative to find a balance between those policies that are made entirely ‘behind a desk’, versus those in which decisions are made after a quick field assessment of the living conditions of a community. The collection of evidence is very important, and so there are pilot studies in the communities. This is key in the process of making informed decisions in any aspect of social development.

What advice would you give development professionals interested in entering a career in Public Health or interested in development more broadly?
Go for it! Public health, health policy, and global health constitute an amazingly rich, complex, and diverse world. In fact, we need more people from specialties other than those in medical specialties in the public health universe. I keep insisting on this. People with a background on development are an incredibly strong asset for any team trying to improve a community’s well-being.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your career?
I created a set of three “golden rules” based on what I have learned thus far on this journey: 1) Be ready to DREAM and, most importantly, be ready to fight for those dreams; 2) Be ready to FAIL, because most of the times when we try to lead change, innovate, or change pre-established conceptions we are going to fail; 3) Be ready to build up your RESILIENCE; because the combination of dreaming and failing only means that we are trying, and if one tries, incredible results will surely come down the line.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?
To be away from family and friends, without a doubt. Traveling the world doing work is fascinating, but sometimes it is hard not to know when I will be coming back home, or for how long.

And what is the most rewarding?
Being able to help people! And especially the most vulnerable ones. There are things that were not described in the textbooks, nor taught in the classroom, and that is simply how fulfilling it is to receive a smile, a hug, or just a simple “thank you” from a person that you are giving a hand to.

It is also quite fascinating to transition from the comfort zone of clinical medicine to public health, and, after many doubts about having made the right choice, knowing that I could not ask this life for anything else.

Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?
Not really. I embrace every step, every accomplishment, and, most importantly, every poor decision and roadblock I have encountered throughout my career. From the former I have learned what to keep doing, and from the latter I have learned what not to do again.

When do you know that you have made a difference?
When you get back home at night, you go to bed, turn off the lights, and the image of that mother smiling with her baby in her arms thanking you cannot be erased from your mind. Then you know that you have made a difference. Sometimes it only takes something as small as that to realize that you are actually changing a tiny piece of this world.