TBHC Physicians Provide Medical Care in Haiti

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TBHC Physicians Provide Medical Care in Haiti

April 15, 2005
In April 2005, Dr. Lubin, Dr. Carryl, Dr. LeBlanc and Resident Joseph Chang, Emergency Medicine, embarked on a trip to Haiti to provide medical assistance to a clinic in the local community of Milot, located in the Northern part of the island. This clinic is available to the community through Sacred Heart Hospital , an established hospital center, and organized through C.R.U.D.E.M., a Catholic mission. The trip was sponsored & planned by OMAT (Overseas Medical Assistant Team), which has been doing non-profit work in developing countries for the last 14 years, specifically in Haiti since 1997. TBHC has been very supportive of OMAT's efforts, noted Dr. Carryl, who led the team in their mission to impart their services to the clinic as part of TBHC's continuing community outreach services.

According to Dr. Lubin, the doctors visited for one week, providing free and much-needed medical care to all age groups in the area, including patients as young as three months as well as senior citizens. However, the majority of the patients were middle-aged, and their breadth of ailments was vast. The doctors treated many types of complications, such as trauma and burn victims, gunshot wounds, ailments due to congenital defects, and life-threatening illnesses. The doctors were able to cover numerous clinics and address different areas in the hospital, beginning Sunday afternoon just hours after their arrival. The patients who visited the clinic on Sunday generated forty-seven additional cases that the doctors added to their schedule. Resident Joseph Chang, Emergency Medicine, covered clinic screenings while the doctors were in surgery & attending patients.

During their stay, the doctors stayed at housing provided for clinicians who travel abroad. Dr. Lubin noted that they were well-received and provided for. He also added that although Creole was commonly spoken (Dr. Lubin is fluent in Creole), there were many natives who spoke English; as a result, there weren't any language barriers, which was helpful during the screening and treatment process.

When asked how the community is notified of the doctors' visit, Dr. Lubin said that the hospital publicizes the information through the clinicians in hospital. Dr. Lubin explained, "The hospital has a system where the teams prepare throughout the year. The clinic schedule their patients based on the doctors' arrival. They basically prepare for the visiting doctors and clinicians, and schedule their patients accordingly. It is a very well-organized program."


  

The doctors prepared for their visit by collecting medications that they anticipated they would be using from drug representatives and pharmaceutical companies. The clinics in Haiti had some supplies available, but in general, they were very limited - they were lacking such basic supplies as band-aids and syringes. The doctors anticipated that this would happen, so they brought such needed medications as narcotics and anesthetics. Dr. Lubin added, "TBHC Pharmacy Department made a nice contribution to this cause - Warren Lakoff, Director of Pharmacy, provided the medications we needed. We had a list of meds and except for controlled drugs, (Mr. Lakoff) was able to provide everything else that we needed."

Normally, homeopathic care (natural treatments or remedies, usually derived from roots, herbs and plants) is all that the people of Haiti can afford, explained Dr. Lubin. It is a cultural as well as a socioeconomic situation, as Eastern medicine more commonly utilizes natural treatments and organic substances to treat illness when nothing else is available; many countries have practiced homeopathic care for thousands of years. "There is a lack of everything, so they take full advantage of what is made available to them. However, the people are very receptive to what we have to offer - especially when there are urgent cases - that require Western medicine (which usually entails surgery)." Dr. Lubin added, "When the doctors are faced with treating life-threatening illnesses in the clinics, such as AIDS and malaria, the internist would see the patients for consultation and treatment."


   

At the end of their visit, the doctors felt extremely grateful for their experiences in Haiti . Dr. Lubin is a native of Haiti himself, and hasn't been back to the island for over 30 years - this trip was the first time he had returned to his homeland, so it held a personal significance. Everything that he had heard about the country - the misery, the suffering, the poverty - was all painfully apparent. However, Dr. Lubin described the people of the community fondly, recalling, "The people themselves certainly made you feel their gratitude - they are a very proud people. Their smiles, their reactions, and their attentiveness to our needs as guests in the country truly showed such sincere appreciation that we wound up thanking them - it touched you in a way with feelings you didn't know existed within you. It was truly a life-altering experience."


Dr. Lubin added, "In spite of the country's poverty and poor living conditions, you didn't see anger or bitterness - they somehow manage. You see their good nature and their goodwill - they are such hard-working people and everyone works together in a cooperative fashion; there is a really strong sense of community. They are also an industrious people, as far as finding solutions to their everyday problems on a daily basis."

On one such occasion, Dr. Lubin encountered an elderly man who was moved when he realized that he spoke his native Creole: "This gentleman was over 80 years old, and when he realized I spoke the language and then interacted with me, he seemed truly touched. He said that after seeing so many doctors over the years, I was the first native son that came back - he said he now has such a sense of hope that after 83 years of life, he is now ready to die with the hope that his country's future is in safe hands." On another occasion, during Dr. Carryl's departure, local community members said, "They will fan time itself so that the doctors will return faster". The doctors anticipate that they will have a bigger team to bring to Haiti on their visit next year to meet the vast needs of the Haitian community.

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