Medical Center Staff Volunteer in Haiti
After the earthquake in Haiti, University of Rochester Medical Center physicians, nurses and staff traveled there to provide care.
"You want to be the kind of person who can look back and say you didn't sit around doing nothing when something like this happened," said John Elfar, M.D. (R '07), an orthopaedic surgeon at the Medical Center. "This is a time when it is better to have failed trying to do something rather than do nothing at all."
Elfar went to Haiti with a Medical Center group that included James Sanders, M.D., chief of pediatric orthopaedic surgery, Dawn Sweeney, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics, and Jonathan Gabel, M.D., chief resident in orthopaedics. The group arrived in Haiti on Jan. 27. They were in the operating room within an hour of their arrival and for a week they treated crush injuries, open fractures and other cases.
Jean Joseph, M.D., M.B.A., (M '92), professor of urology and a native of Haiti, went to the island for 10 days with a group that included group Gary Tebor, M.D., associate professor of orthopaedics, Krystof Neumann, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology, and William Willett, P.A. Cyndy Babcock, nurse anesthetist, and Rachelle Nesbitt, R.N., a trauma nurse who also is a native of Haiti, also were in the group, two of several nurses who volunteered in Haiti.
Peter Crane, M.D., and Tom Fletcher, P.A., of the Department of Emergency Medicine, spent two weeks in Haiti as part of the National Disaster Medical System team.
Jeffrey Harp, M.D. (M '83), associate professor of family medicine who has been going to Haiti with a health care team every 18 months for several years, spent 10 days in January in Cap-Hatien and Port-au-Prince.
"A team of 15 from the U.S. and Canada ran medical clinics in Port-au Prince, serving tent cities affiliated with or adjacent to churches or ministries known to us from past visits," he said. "Our work was coordinated by a Haitian couple, a pastor and a nurse, with whom we have partnered for 18 years."
When he left, nearly everyone was still living outside.
"Food and water were scarce," Harp said. "Toilet facilities were scarcer. We saw some evidence of organized relief efforts, but the need was much greater. We did see help arriving from many sources, usually through individuals connected to faith communities in Port-au-Prince through ongoing support prior to the earthquake."
Rochester corporations and hospitals, through the non-profit organization InterVol, helped ship four tons of medical supplies, 200 tents and 3,000 pounds of food to Haiti. InterVol is a Rochester-based organization founded by surgeon Ralph Pennino, M.D. (R '84), that recovers and redistributes medical supplies and equipment and connects hospitals and medical professionals with governments and care-giving organizations in areas of need.
Jean Joseph's group provided general medical care for people of Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake.
"We performed surgeries and treated many medical conditions. There were several deliveries performed, including an emergency C-section. Many were done during the night using headlamps," he said.
Joseph said what he saw in Haiti was "an unthinkable disaster."
"The town where we were was pretty much leveled," Joseph said. "There were many amputees, lots of orphans, anxiety disorders. It was painful to observe."
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