Winfred Tovar, M.D. (’18SPS, Nonprofit Management) is the founder and Executive Director of MIMSI International, a nonprofit in Haiti that provides pregnancy care training in developing countries. MIMSI recently received a $750,000 grant from the American Development Bank to expand the service to southern Haiti. Previously, Dr. Tovar was an attending physician at St. Barnabas Hospital in Bronx, New York and also served as the Chief Attending at Stony Brook University Medical Center. Through Doctors Without Borders, he witnessed the direct impact of inadequate healthcare and medical services for women and their families. The experience sparked his interest in humanitarian medicine, which led to the creation of MIMSI International. Dr. Tovar received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Columbia University and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
What inspired you to start a nonprofit in Haiti?
I was inspired to start my nonprofit in 2014 when my cousin Rose Annette nearly died in Haiti giving birth to twin girls while at home. She had dangerously high blood pressure and a postpartum hemorrhage that landed her in a coma. It compelled me to start this organization to find simple, cost-effective solutions to these developing-world circumstances that end a woman’s life unnecessarily.
What initially attracted you to the Nonprofit Management program at Columbia University?
I started a nonprofit organization in 2014 to reduce maternal mortality rates in my home country of Haiti. As an obstetrician and gynecologist, I felt confident in my medical knowledge. However, that didn’t translate into automatic proficiency in managing a nonprofit from the ground up. So, being a Columbia graduate, I started to review where I might acquire the support required to run MIMSI International and looked to the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies.
How have the skills you built at Columbia helped you grow your nonprofit?
In my Communications & Marketing course with Marcia Stepanek, I chose MIMSI as my nonprofit of choice and it helped me to craft a new communications plan. The ideas I thought of in class helped us to rebrand MIMSI. We created a softer and more feminine logo, look, and feel. The language around the nonprofit also changed as we added more storytelling and engaged with the public. Nonprofit Governance with Cindy M. Lott and Vernetta Walker was a powerful course and an acute lesson in the benefits of structure and governance. The course inspired me to restructure the organization’s bylaws and create new levels of giving and leadership, which have altered MIMSI’s course since 2016. Now we are receiving major gifts from donors as a result of the direction we took after we restructured the board and reinforced the duties of every board member. Annual Giving and Major Gifts with Robert Wahlers was simply transformational! Professor Wahlers was instrumental in helping me set up our annual giving and the structure of our major gifts campaign. We are now in the process of planning The Pink Candle Annual Campaign to raise awareness for maternal mortality and to raise funds for MIMSI’s work in Haiti.
Learn more about the Master of Science in Nonprofit Management program at the School of Professional Studies.