HOPE volunteer Dr. Barry Finette is a low-key guy, of whom a fellow volunteer on the ship said recently, “He’s so unassuming and he fits in like just one of the guys. And then he gave that over-the-top lecture on global health issues and I realized he’s the smartest guy on the ship!”
There’s no denying that Dr. Finette is a man of many talents. After getting a PhD in microbiology, he decided he was missing the human element. So he went to medical school and became a pediatrician. His practice is as a hospitalist at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, where he also is a researcher, and professor with students ranging from undergraduates and first year medical school students to PhD candidates.
Dr. Finette’s first mission with Project HOPE in Jamaica and Peru is just one stop along his intrepid journey into the world of global health issues.
He is just now winding down a sabbatical in which he pursued a Diploma in Tropical Medicine Hygiene in London, and an International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance in Geneva. His fieldwork for those programs was conducted in Bhutan, Uganda, Ethiopia, and now in Jamaica and Peru.
In Jamaica, co-workers were impressed with the respectful manner in which “Dr. Barry” interacted with his young patients. “I ask them what they want to do when they grow up, and if they are studying hard,” says Dr. Finette. “I ask if they want to hear their own heartbeat, and then listen to the heartbeat of a brother or sister. By talking to them about the future, who knows what seed might be planted?”
“I’m most interested in how I can improve a child’s health long-term,” he adds. “If a kid has respiratory problems and I can convince the parent to stop smoking, that’s huge.”
Asked what specific interests he would support if he won the lottery, Dr. Finette responds, “I’d start a think tank; bring together brilliant people – engineers, economists, aide workers, security specialist people, health care providers and others – and give them an unrestricted environment in which we could figure out how to really coordinate humanitarian efforts. People don’t need stuff as much as they need opportunities. If we can figure out how to give them that, people can solve their own particular problems.”
After a week at sea that included an abandon ship drill and going through the Panama Canal, Barry is looking forward to his pediatric work in Peru. Then it’s back to Burlington, Vermont. “I’ve got papers to write, patients to see, and studies to set up back at home,” he says. He is also pondering how he might develop a global health curriculum at UV and manage his time so he can continue to travel the world.
When asked what he does when he’s not working to improve global health, Dr. Finette deadpans, “Well, it is a 24-hour- a- day job.” He then laughs and confesses to lots of snowboarding, cycling, fishing, basketball and family time with his physician wife and seven children.
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