October 2, 2020

5 Questions with Dr. Manuel Espinoza Garcia

Our monthly check-in with staff from around the world. Learn more about the people who work at CHAI.

 Gracias a Dios Associate, Global Malaria
Start date: Oct. 23, 2017

Please tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to CHAI.

I am a medical doctor. I was sure I wanted to pursue training in neurosurgery but when I did my last year of school, I volunteered to go to La Mosquitia (where we work now) to be a general physician at a rural hospital. The experience itself was a big change of perspective to me. That’s when I realized the biggest problem that we have to solve in global health right now is not the lack of specialized care, but the lack of access to that care and essential basic services. After this, I started a project in the non-profit sector to provide telemedicine services in rural areas. Working along these lines, I found CHAI and realized my own values matched with CHAI’s values. I joined CHAI three years ago, and I still feel there’s a long way to go, but I know we are going in the right direction, and that’s exciting!

1. What does a typical day at CHAI look like for you? 

A typical day for me starts with a coffee chat with epidemiologists, microbiologists, and environmental health technicians at the local level. While catching up on our lives, we always end up talking about malaria patients, drivers of transmission, where cases are being concentrated, supply chain issues, maps, etc., but in a way that is fun and intellectually challenging for all of us. I am able to see the impact of our work in real life when I see how an RDT can speed the process of diagnosis, despite the fact that we are in the middle of the jungle, doing a field visit. It’s nice to work in a multidisciplinary, multiethnic environment.

2. What’s been one of your proudest moments working at CHAI? 

When the region we work in was declared as Malaria Champions for the Americas. It was very satisfying to share with our counterparts the excitement of being recognized for the work all of us do. That’s when I realized that working closely with the countries we serve makes us feel part of their teams as they are part of ours, so we are not just external partners but peers.

3. What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received? 

It actually came as a book recommendation from CHAI’s vice president of malaria, Justin Cohen, Switch, how to change things when change is hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. It gave me a fresh view of the people and the teams we work with. Having a different perspective of why things are not working the way we want them to allows us to be empathic and understand that the majority of time people are not the problem, but our system’s weaknesses are; people are not lazy, they are just exhausted; they are not resistant to change, how to change is just not clear enough for them.

4. What are you currently reading or watching? 

Street Food Latin America (Netflix) and I just finished La Casa de Papel ( Netflix). I’m reading A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger and Abundance, the future is better than you think, by Peter H. Diamandis.

5. What advice would you give someone who’s considering joining CHAI? 

If you are the kind of person that ask themselves, what am I doing to change the world? this is the kind of work that gives you that sense of purpose that fuels your heart and mind.

CHAI is looking for dynamic and self-motivated individuals who are committed to strengthening integrated health systems around the world and expanding access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other illnesses. Join our team.


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