CAHI Fellows Program
THE IMPORTANCE OF CRITICAL VISION
Interview with Prof. Alcira Castillo
Alcira Castillo has extensive knowledge of social determinants of health, equity and health promotion, for which she has served as coordinator and tutor in virtual and face-to-face courses of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), World Health Organization (WHO), College of the Americas (COLAM) and the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (IOHE) for many years.
During her career as a teacher and researcher at the Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health, at the University of Costa Rica, she held the position of Director for six years. She’s a guest professor in the Medical Sciences program of the Doctorate of Public Health at the University of Puerto Rico. She also works as an international consultant.
CAHI Staff had the opportunity to speak with Professor Alcira Castillo a few minutes after she finished teaching her class for the 6th generation of CAHI Fellows. The interview follows below; it has been translated from Spanish and has been edited lightly for clarity:
Interviewer: How do you feel after this class with a new group of CAHI Fellows?
Alcira: I love working with new groups because they are beginning this process and they are always very professional in approaching their ideas and projects. I perceive that they were well-selected—that they are here with a lot of commitment, motivation and desire to learn. As a teacher, I appreciate all these qualities and that motivates me in my teaching. Besides, this is a subject that I am very passionate about. I was at the University of Costa Rica for 30 years, but here at INCAE within the CAHI program I feel at home again, it’s all very nice and cozy.
Interviewer: How do you connect your professional career with the contribution you make to the CAHI Fellows program?Alcira: I would say that teaching for a large part of my life, and focusing on public health institutions for 7 years, has given me a lot of respect for the responsibility to train human resources, especially in public health. When working with the social determinants of health we need to have people with critical thinking skills in Central America, because there is a lot to do. We have to start breaking patterns, innovating, and these CAHI Fellows’ projects are an ideal staring place; they are small interventions with the capacity to break the status quo and open new roads.
Interviewer: What is your perspective on CAHI’s strategy in strengthening leaders in the area of health?
Alcira: I have learned a lot from this methodology, which I find very interesting. Through my experience at CAHI I have learned a lot from the management methodologies of the CAHI Fellows’ projects and the ways that groups interact to support and exchange knowledge. I feel that it is very important in this work.
I also feel that one of the most significant aspects of this way of working, is that each Fellow has an idea or project in development, as a crucial element for them to synthesize of all the knowledge they acquire, through the process of application in real situations. Additionally, the combination of the face-to-face with the virtual activities is very favorable and motivating for the groups. Finally, I would say that the exchange between people from different countries enriches them a lot.
Interviewer: Being a teacher of this program and having trained so many CAHI Fellow leaders, what do you feel you have contributed to the groups?
Alcira: I believe that I strive to help them have a critical vision of their own reality, that they try to deepen their understanding of the situation that they know in the field where they are working. There must be fundamentals, statistical analysis, ethics, and a solid and integral knowledge. It requires a lot of critical thinking.
Interviewer: What is your vision about the future of CAHI?
Alcira: I believe that the CAHI Fellows Program should continue to grow and sustain itself, because we need many leaders with this level of capacity and commitment in Central America.