Passion and Hard Work: an interview with Cote d'Ivoire's INSP

Sept 17, 2015

Earlier this month IANPHI had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Dinard Kouissi (Director General, INSP Cote d’Ivoire) and Dr. Aime Serge Dali (Research Associate, INSP) to discuss the unique network – or “platform” – model of public health in Cote d’Ivoire, the value of mentorship and international training, and their own experiences in public health. 

IANPHI: How did you first become interested in public health? Can you tell me a bit about your professional background?

Dinard: Before I began working in public health, I studied in France to receive my medical doctor degree. I specialized in Medical Biology, and then returned to Cote d’Ivoire to complete my PhD in Biology and Hematology.

IANPHI: How did you choose hematology?

Dinard: I had a good mentor in hematology, which led me to choose that field over other fields I had interest in. After completing my PhD, I was appointed as the head of the laboratory at INSP in Abidjan, at the INSP Center for Diabetes. However, I soon learned that there was not good care for the cost required, so we worked to improve the quality of care while decreasing the cost. I was responsible for the development of the center’s insulin bank during that time as well. 

I then decided that if I was going to work in public health, I should complete my Masters in Public Health. I got my degree in Abidjan, and a certificate from the University of Washington in 2011. The Ministry of Health in Cote d’Ivoire saw my good work, and appointed me as the Director of INSP.

IANPHI: You mention that you had a strong mentor early in your career. How have you engaged in mentoring and training younger public health professionals during your career? 

Dinard: Mentoring is very important to our work at INSP. I will share with you two examples of this. When I was appointed, less than 2% of INSP staff had a background in public health. Now, over 80% of them have received public health training, many of them through INSP supported programs. At INSP, when I arrived we have only three research assistants working with staff; now, we have twenty. 

Another example is helping our staff to receive training overseas. As Director, over 100 of our staff have traveled out of the country to receive public health training. This year we have 10 staff members attending trainings in China. 

Dali: I can speak to his mentorship as he has mentored me! My first time working with Prof. Dinard was in 2010. I was working for Health Alliance International, with the University of Washington, connected to INSP. In my 15 years of experience, Dinard has been the best supervisor I have ever had. He is not concerned with where you studied, but with what you know, what you can bring to INSP to help in moving it forward. I have had the opportunity to expand not only my knowledge but also my skills. He allows me to work as I want to work, and has supported me in my admission to become a Fulbright Scholar, and come to study here in Atlanta at Georgia State for my MPH.

 IANPHI: Why do you prioritize international training for your staff? 

Dinard: I studied in France, which allowed me to see other cultures, and open my mind to other places to see how they are different. It’s important to see how other countries and cultures are different, and international training provides that opportunity.

IANPHI: What types of training does INSP offer to public health professionals?

Dinard: At INSP, there weren’t training opportunities before, but now we are the host for 2 MPH programs, in global health and nutrition, which have 15 students each. We expect to add an environmental health track soon. We host students from Cote d’Ivoire as well as many international students. We also offer more specific trainings, as well as research groups, and opportunities to work with leadership at INSP. This is an area we have really expanded. In 2015, we had $1.2 million for research grants. We credit our success of fundraising to IANPHI, as well as expanded support from UNICEF and the World Bank. 

IANPHI: INSP serves as the secretariat for Cote d’Ivoire’s CNCISP, a national network, or “platform,” for public health activity across seven organizations. This is a unique model among NPHIs. How was this model established?

Dinard: After the political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, everything was destroyed. When IANPHI visited us in 2012, there was no coordination or communication between the various groups working in public health in Cote d’Ivoire. It was then that we had the idea for a “platform,” with a goal of linking all of the groups in order to build a national public health system in Cote d’Ivoire.

IANPHI: What are the strengths of using this model, as opposed to a single institute?

Dinard: We see this platform as a necessary step in developing a comprehensive national public health institute in Cote d’Ivoire. By linking the existing organizations, we are able to add value to their work, without taking away from what any of them are doing on their own. We hold rotating meetings, hosted by each of the member organizations, which facilitate collaboration across many public health areas.

INSP is the IANPHI member for Cote d’Ivoire, and we serve as the ambassadors to bring all members of CNCISP to understand IANPHI. When we receive funding from IANPHI, this funding is shared with the platform to further public health activities at the national level. 

From the beginning, the high level leadership, including the Ministry of Health Director General, has been involved, with support from Madame Minister of Health. And we are very thankful to IANPHI for their support to INSP and our work.  

IANPHI: Is there anything else you’d like to share in closing?

Dinard: Another thing is, you need to have passion; hard work, but also passion.