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Elias Lizardo

Elias Lizardo ’90: Minister for health

When Elias Lizardo is not reviewing epidemiology updates, speaking to the press or developing strategies to reduce the rates of fatal illnesses in Honduras, he loves to fish for largemouth bass and guapote (rainbow bass). “My wife is also an avid fisherwoman, so this is something we love to do with the time we can share,” he says.

As minister of health for Honduras, Lizardo has sought to implement “profoundly needed health reforms” in his country since taking office in February 2002. During his four-year term, he intends to decrease the transmittal rates of such diseases as dengue, malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, as well as infant and maternal mortality, by 25 percent.

Lizardo’s other steps toward reform include monthly evaluations by region and by hospital. “They have created an enormous sense of accountability and have improved communications significantly within the system,” he reports. “Medical procurement is no longer done once a year. We are in the process of installing inventory controls that link us to the whole system.” This is all the more challenging because some Hondurans reside in areas without access to electrical power or tele-communications. But, Lizardo explains, aid from agencies such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank should help to bridge the communications gap.

Lizardo grew up in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and attended the University of California, Davis, where he double-majored in agricultural and managerial economics. Columbia’s culturally diverse environment attracted him to the Business School, where he specialized in finance, operations and international business.

Lizardo credits the School with broadening his perspective. The case-study approach taught him that he could apply his analytical skills to almost any situation, which facilitated his career transition from agribusiness to the health sector. “I acquired the ability to meet any challenge with an openness of mind I did not possess before,” he says. “The technical tools I learned are still useful, but the change in attitude makes the real difference.”

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