20 Oct 2016 Staff Spotlight: Dr. Lara Hall, Medical Director
In January 2015, Dr. Lara Hall moved with her family to rural Madagascar to serve as PIVOT’s Medical Director.
The 19 years of experience that prepared her for the position started with her Peace Corps service in the Republic of Congo, where she worked as a health education volunteer focusing on local water and sanitation projects. Following her two years of service, she received her Doctorate of Medicine at University of California San Diego and spent her residency focusing on family medicine at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Before making her professional foray into the field of global health, Lara practiced for 7 years as a staff family physician at Cambridge Hospital in Somerville, MA while also working as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Tufts School of Medicine in Boston and a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School. About ten years ago, Lara and her husband, Patrick, who she met in the Peace Corps, spent 3 months in Madagascar, where she volunteered at a rural health center while he completed an internship. They greatly enjoyed their experience in Madagascar and eventually started talking about the idea of returning to live and work in the developing world.
When Lara heard about PIVOT and the clinical leadership role that the team was looking to fill, it seemed like a perfect fit. “Social justice has always been something that is really important in my life,” she says, “and for me global health and healthcare is a way that I see that I can contribute.”
During the nearly two years that Lara has been leading the clinical team in Madagascar, PIVOT has made significant strides providing and improving access to quality health care in the region. As the longest-standing member of the leadership team at site, Lara has been the architect for some of PIVOT’s earliest health system interventions. Prior to Lara’s arrival, PIVOT had minimal presence throughout the district, but thanks to her leadership, diplomacy, and medical skills, PIVOT now provides support to all 20 health centers in Ifanadiana District, the district hospital, and a growing number of remote villages through the community health program.
Lara’s longstanding passion for family medicine aligns with some of Madagascar’s most urgent health-related crises, including its high maternal and child mortality rates. Her expertise in these areas has enabled her to act as chief strategist in the launch of our integrated management of childhood illness, malnutrition program, community health initiatives, and more. As a result, utilization of health centers has quadrupled, and the quality and impact of our programs has improved.
In addition to designing and leading PIVOT’s medical programs, Lara has drawn on her clinical instruction experience to act as a mentor to virtually every member of PIVOT’s clinical team, which consists of both local and expatriate staff. It is evident that she cares about and believes in the value of our staff’s professional development, as she has also played a key role in bringing various experts to Madagascar to provide training to our staff on topics from developing leadership skills to using an ultrasound machine.
Lara now lives in the city of Fianarantsoa with her husband and their two sons Eli (10) and Micah (7), who are enrolled in school and gaining their own experiences with cross-cultural immersion. She says she enjoys the less frenetic pace of raising kids in Madagascar compared to in the U.S. Beyond that, it is clear that these years spent in Madagascar are an extension of the values she hopes to pass on to her kids. “They’re getting to experience a whole part of the world that a lot of people never get to see,” she says,
“I think it’s really important to open their eyes to how much of the world suffers.”
PIVOT’s mission is to break cycles of poverty and disease in rural Madagascar, and we are fortunate to have found a leader so dedicated to furthering it. “There’s just so much work to do that it’s hard not to stay awake late at night just worrying,” she says, “about that one child, that one difference that you can try to make at the hospital to save patients’ lives.”