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Jane Bertrand

Llegó a CIDEIM (en ese entonces ICMRT) por primera vez en 1971 para desempeñarse como editora, apoyando la escritura de artículos. Luego realizó sus estudios de doctorado en Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine y de postdoctorado en University of Chicago. Hizo parte del Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine entre 1979 y 2001. Luego dirigió el International Communication Center of Behavior Change en Johns Hopkins University. En Julio de 2009, regresó a Tulane como Profesora de la cátedra Neal A. and Mary Vanselor y Directora del Global Health Systems and Development Department.


“In 1971, I had just graduated from undergrad and become interested in international family planning. Tulane had a very well recognized program at the time, and I came here to interview. During that interview, someone asked, “Well, what are you going to do in the next year before you come to Tulane?” And I said, “Well, I´m going to Colombia to learn Spanish.”  They said, “What a coincidence.” It turned out that Tulane and ICMRT were looking for someone to serve as editor.  I had not anticipated being an editor, but it, in fact, proved to be a wonderful opportunity and that´s how I first became associated with CIDEIM, then ICMRT, in 1971. I then ended up coming back each year of my graduate school career to work for one or two months in the summer months, again assisting with the editing.

It turned out that this job of being an editor, which at the time, frankly, seemed to be a little dull and dry, turned out to be one of the most useful skill-building exercises I could have possible been involved in. When I came back to New Orleans, I spent 3 months reading every book there was about how to write a scientific paper. As a result of this, I formed very clear-cut ideas about what a paper should look like. I then was able to work and gain a lot of experience in helping other people write these scientific papers, such that when my own turn came along to write my own papers on the topics of my interest, I really had a very strong background that relatively few students in my graduate cohort would have had.  Although I was not a researcher by any means – at the time I was at ICMRT I was very much a junior staff member – I gained incredible experience and skills that have served me very well in my entire career since then.

I had been planning to go back to grad school, and being immersed in a research institute which allowed me to see up close what research was all about very much confirmed my decision. I questioned if that ever would have happened if I had not had that one year at ICMRT.  The year in Cali, Colombia really did solidify my interest in working internationally as well. In grad school I went into the area of family planning and basically have worked for the past 30 plus years in international family planning. That initial experience in Cali, Colombia did launch a career which has now taken me past Latin America, back through Central America, and I´m currently working in Sub-Saharan Africa as well.

One of the great joys of working at ICMRT was the diversity of fields that were represented there. I was personally interested in the social sciences and epidemiology, yet I was in contact with people working with Chagas Disease, such as Antonio D´Alessandro, with people studying malaria – probably an assortment of professions that under normal circumstances social scientists wouldn´t normally be interacting with. ICMRT offered a wonderful opportunity for researchers across this wide spectrum of areas to interact on an informal basis which was just a real gift.

On the personal side, one of the first people that I met when I got to Cali, Colombia in December 1971 was Bill Bertrand, and the fact that my name is Jane Bertrand and that we will be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary in a few months tells you a lot about the significance of that year in Cali. But it doesn´t stop there. Subsequently, we adopted our two children from Cali, Colombia and continue to have very close ties with many Colombian friends. One of my fondest memories of my year in Cali, Colombia was that during this courtship with Bill Bertrand, we managed to zig-zag up and down, over and across Colombia in a way that would be unthinkable today. My memories of Colombia are of a country of immense beauty and wonderful natural resources, an incredible diversity of different environments, of different cultural faces. In short I feel that I have had an introduction to Colombia that was really unique and I feel so privileged to have been in Colombia at a time when freedom of moving around in that way was so possible”.