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CAHI Fellows Program


Interview with Prof. Álvaro Salas

Álvaro Salas is a medical doctor, a former president of the Costa Rican Social Security Administration and member of the Board of Directors of CAHI. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Harvard University, as well as post-graduate studies in Health Services Administration and Planning from the University of Leeds.

He also teaches during the first module of the CAHI Fellows program, where he helps the CAHI Fellows to understand the complexity of the many health systems in Central America.

CAHI Staff had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Salas after he finished teaching his session to the 6th generation of CAHI Fellows in Costa Rica in June, 2019. The interview follows below; it has been translated from Spanish and edited lightly for clarity. 

Interviewer: Your journey with CAHI began with the origin of the organization. How has the journey been from then until now?

Álvaro: My first contact with CAHI was through its founder and current chairman of the Board of Directors, Robert Jeffe, who traveled to Costa Rica to identify allies and potential candidates to start the program. What he proposed to me was a project to train human resources with the best tools for managing health projects. So, I started to get involved and I was part of the initial group in which we began to see the possibilities, to visualize everything that could be done, and identify priority areas for projects in Central America.

At that time, we realized that the challenge would be big, and we began to develop clarity about the profile of leaders that would be required to address these challenges in ​​health.  This is how we made progress towards the first generation of CAHI Fellows, which was a mixed group combining participants from non-governmental organizations, community groups, doctors, directors of health centers, and nurses. I remember many special projects, such as one in El Salvador, that resulted in the development of a bracelet  of multi-colored beads that served as a reminder to kidney patients about healthy habits to take care of their kidneys, for example, a white bead to remember to avoid the salt, two blue beads to remember to drink two liters of water, and so on. It was a project of great creativity.

This process of evolution has brought us to this sixth generation of leaders, and our vision is that new leaders join every year, because, without a doubt, CAHI is contributing to the development of creative ideas that improve the quality of life of people in the region. There are more than 100 members in the CAHI Fellows network.

Interviewer: In your role as a professor of the CAHI Fellows Program, what is the value you bring to the participants

Álvaro: The program is focused on management of health projects, so it has elements such as innovation, leadership, management, etc. Today, I come to address the issue of health systems in Central America, offering the CAHI Fellows a perspective and a basis in available data sources that allows them to continue researching and seeking more information, to give context to their projects, to generate a dialogue that allows us to understand the situation in each country.

My intention is that they can better connect their projects with a process of prevention, rehabilitation, and attention to disease; this way, they will understand the landscape in which their project exists, what their priorities should or could be, and to strengthen their project ideas. We will be working today to place ourselves and our projects in the social and economic context of the region, as well as within the economic systems and healthcare systems of each country.

Interviewer: How do you perceive the CAHI work model

Álvaro: I feel that CAHI has been consolidating a group of like-minded people who share a vision. Those of us who are on the Board of Directors see each other frequently, we are constantly communicating to keep ourselves aligned and promoting the organization and the CAHI Fellows. I think that it is a good bet to work with young people with significant projects and such a high management capacity. I learn with them and I also feel part of this regional network. It is the contact with them that keeps us updated on what happens in each country, the progress of the projects, the connections that are produced between members of the CAHI Fellows Network. CAHI is an extraordinary organization with a vision in constant renovation.

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