‘There is always hope’: Health Economist Recalls Journey from Haiti to Cone Health
Dr. Ernest Dorilas has a story to tell, and he hopes it makes a difference in the lives of Cone Health’s patients.
Greensboro – Health economist Ernest Dorilas brings a wealth of professional experience to Cone Health, but it’s his personal story that might have an even greater impact on his new community.
In his role, Dorilas will evaluate the cost of care at Cone Health and find ways to improve care for patients and the health system. And he’s passionate about the work. In fact, he chose this role over opportunities at major corporations around the world because he wanted to make a difference in the lives of patients.
“This is life and death,” he said. “The impact of what I can do at Cone Health is going to be bigger than the impact I could have made anywhere else. Here, I’ll really be touching people’s lives.”
His passion for helping others comes from a difficult journey that begins in Haiti. When Dorilas was 4 years old, he lost his mother. Two years later, his father passed. Raised by his aunt and uncle, Dorilas grew up with little money. He couldn’t even afford schoolbooks – but that wouldn’t stop him.
One thing you’ll learn about Dorilas is that he’s persistent. In fact, it’s one of “The 5 Ps” he says guides his life.
“Prayer, patience, persistence, positivity, and… prayer,” he said. “No matter what life throws at me, I will be patient, persistent and positive, and I will always pray.”
Those principles have helped him overcome several obstacles in his life. When he couldn’t afford schoolbooks, he chose persistence and tutored fellow students just so he could use their books. When he prayed for food, he found a restaurant owner who offered him a free meal every day for two years.
He also earned a scholarship to Haiti’s best and most rigorous school of economics and graduated at the top of his class, despite having no electricity or transportation for the most part.
“I was the definition of poverty, but when people saw me, they couldn’t see that,” he said. “God took care of me in amazing ways.”
He admits there were many times when he considered giving up. Like in 2010, when he survived a massive earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people in Haiti. Then there was the time in 2018 when he suffered several panic attacks due to numerous challenges, including his doctoral program’s comprehensive exams and other family matters. But he knew he’d come too far to give up on his journey.
Dorilas went on to pursue a master’s degree in economics at Georgia State University. He again finished at the top of his class. In November 2021, he successfully defended his dissertation to earn a doctorate in econometrics and quantitative economics from Georgia State. He’s worked with the Clinton Foundation, led an Energy Subsidy Reform program in partnership with the World Bank, and taught at Georgia State University and in a summer program at Johns Hopkins University. Now, Dorilas is bringing his passion, and educational and life experiences, to Cone Health to support patients.
“As Cone moves toward value-based care, I knew Dr. Dorilas was exactly what we needed to help us reach that goal,” said Monica Schmidt, executive director, health economics, Cone Health. “He is humble, kind and such an innovative thinker. He also understands barriers to care through a lens many of us are unable to understand.”
Dorilas is excited for the opportunity to evaluate Cone Health’s practices and help the system provide the best and most affordable care to the communities it serves. And as he helps to improve the patient experience, he hopes his story can inspire others.
“There are people around the world who are struggling, and they think there’s no hope,” he said. “There is always hope.”