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Archive for June, 2009

University of Tennessee medical student, Masuma Bahora gets eye-level with a young Haitian patient at one of the mobile clinics. Photo by Elizabeth Case.

University of Tennessee medical student, Masuma Bahora gets eye-level with a young Haitian patient at one of the mobile clinics. Photo by Elizabeth Case.

By Elizabeth Case*

Shortly after returning from Haiti, I read Earnest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. The book is set in Cuba, a locale about as foreign to Americans as the country of Haiti. Hemingway stunned me with his portrait of a Cuban fisherman. When I turned to write my own account of Haiti, I knew I risked writing about it with pity, exoticism, and ultimately, misunderstanding. It takes a long time to understand a place as different as Haiti. That said, I learned a lot during my week in Haiti. It was an experience I feel compelled to share.

Pull_quote_1Our plane flew low over the rusted roofs of a neighborhood in Port au Prince. The plane landed and we walked into the throbbing heat of a May afternoon. The airport was small by American standards, and unembellished. We were not the only foreigners; there were two other groups of Americans, one medical and one religious.

Outside the airport we were met by drivers. The service had been arranged by Medishare, as were all other in-country services we needed. The driver in charge, called Riche’, was an African-looking man who wore sunglasses. I will always remember him as being responsible for the spirit of all our travel in Haiti: something like a high-speed car chase over rubble-paved mountain roads. Passing through the country-side in this fashion, we kicked up dust plumes so large that we left everything, civilians included, dust-covered. The pace of the cars and their metallic luster so contrasted with the lives of the people we saw on the road-side, that our driving felt almost violent. I kept thinking, ‘I want to walk a little in the sun and take this place in slowly’; but it was a very long way to our destination.



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Pictured above are Marie Chery (Project Medishare and The Global Insitute), Marissa Merove-Pierre (Support Group or Project Medishare in Haiti), Ellen Powers (Project Medishare and The Global Insitute), Haitian President Rene Preval, Dr. Barth Green (Project Medishare Co-Founder), and Pasha & Angele Vorbe (Support Group of Project Medishare in Haiti).

Pictured above are Marie Chery (Project Medishare and The Global Insitute), Marissa Merove-Pierre (Support Group or Project Medishare in Haiti), Ellen Powers (Project Medishare and The Global Insitute), Haitian President Rene Preval, Dr. Barth Green (Project Medishare Co-Founder and Chairman of The Global Institute), and Pasha & Angele Vorbe (Support Group of Project Medishare in Haiti).

By Jennifer Browning

After a meeting with Haitian President Rene Preval last week, Preval expressed excitement about Project Medishare and The Global Insitute at the University of Miami’s many programs and initiatves focused in the Central Plateau.

On Tuesday, June 16 Dr. Barth Green, Ellen Powers, Marie Chery, from the Global Institute at the University of Miami and Project Medishare, along with Pasha and Angele Vorbe and Marissa Merove-Pierre from the Support Group for Project Medishare in Haiti, met with President Preval regarding a variety of ongoing programs focused in Haiti’s Central Plateau.

The discussion mostly centered around the program activities of The Global Institute & Project Medishare in the Central Plateau with a major focus on the Integrated Community Development Program in Marmont. Dr. Green also talked about how he is spearheading the effort for the construction of the first trauma hospital in the country, in collaboration with Jackson Memorial Hospital, the University of Miami and local partners in Haiti.

President Preval expressed his full support for these initiatives reinforcing the national development efforts toward economic growth and poverty reduction.

The President is planning a site visit to the Integrated Community Development Program in Marmont in the near future to get first hand knowledge of the progress being made in this region.

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By Jennifer Browning

At the request of Representative Kendrick Meek and the South Florida delegation, Dr. Michel Dodard and Ellen Powers, representing Project Medishare and The Global Institute at the University of Miami, joined the Florida lawmakers for a lunch meeting on Monday.

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Dr. Michel Dodard and Ellen Powers with the South Florida congressional delegates during their visit to Haiti this past Monday.

Dr. Dodard and Ms. Powers spoke to the group about The Global Institute and Project Medishare’s programs in Haiti, including the Integrated Community Development Program in Marmont and Project Medishare’s ongoing community health program in Thomonde. Dr. Dodard also discussed the details of the University of Miami’s  workforce development program, which focuses on training Haitian residents to be family doctors in Cap Haitian.

The Global Institute is seeking funding from the U.S. government for these programs supported and led by Representative Wasserman Shultz. The Florida representatives were very supportive of the programs.

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By Jennifer Browning

Five members of South Florida’s congressional delegation travel to Haiti today. The lawmakers will speak to Haitian President Rene Preval  about security issues, hurricane preparation, and immigration policy.

Story in the Miami Herald.

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By Jennifer Browning

After spending a week with Project Medishare’s staff in Thomonde, Haiti, the medical students from the University of Miami are making their way back to the United States today.

A few of their photos have been posted up on Project Medishare’s Flickr site. Check them out here.

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By Elizabeth Greig

CENTRAL PLATEAU, Haiti–The suggestions for preventative health measures available to Americans in this week’s time would probably get a few confused looks and laughs from the people of the Central Plateau. A quote highlighted in bold reads, “Ideally, I want you to be sweaty for an hour every day.” Haitians, I assure you, have met and exceeded this recommendation for prevention of cardiovascular disease.

If sweating is an effective way to prevent heart disease, then it could be extrapolated that Project Medishare’s mobile clinics have been practicing preventative healthcare and saving thousands of lives not counting any other medical intervention people may have received there. I myself expect to live well into my hundreds based off the hours of sweating I chalked up this week alone. And yet, the people of the Central Plateau press the limits of one’s sphygmonometer, so much so that it is the overwhelming topic of clinical discussion at the end of the day.

There is, however, something comforting about writing your 70th prescription of HCTZ in a day. For one, it’s just like home! Of the limited amount of drugs I can write by memory in a set of orders, this is one of them. At home, hypertension too is a disease of poverty. People aren’t washing their HCTZ down at Jackson Memorial Hospital with a few chicken nuggets because of a Louis XIV complex, but at least hypertension is an opportunity. At least you’re given the chance to live a safe enough life to advance to hypertension. A luxury? A luxury only with the lowest standards……but an advance nonetheless.

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By Drew Martowski

CENTRAL PLATEAU, Haiti–The prior two days of mobile health clinics have taken place in schoolhouses. The simple reason for this seems to be that they are the only completed buildings other than churches that can afford adequate space and shade to serve the numbers of people that our presence attracts. The infrastructure available to those in the central plateau is minimal at best. Schoolhouses do exist, yet tuition is prohibitively expensive for most children. Second, people come from all over the surrounding area seeking basic healthcare because for many, traveling to the permanent clinics is a long journey and this makes it difficult for those to obtain regular health care. Both factors are the result of extreme poverty.

In Haiti, one is constantly reminded of the poverty. The muddy dirt roads demand the use of four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles (their necessity makes the word “sport” seem ironic). Many children sit naked beside the road or pump water from wells into dirty, old, plastic containers. Yesterday at the pediatrics station, the majority of the children were clearly malnourished. We were frequently struck by the disparity between their apparent and actual ages. Today at the prenatal station, many if not most of the mothers appeared clearly anemic and in danger of complications upon delivery. I could go on.

There is however, one incredibly important aspect of my experience in Haiti, which has stopped surprising me, but which still amazes me. The attitude of the Haitian population is wonderful. Everyone here is so pleasant and always laughing with us and smiling at us. In spite of such abject poverty, the people thrive in spirit and culture. They appreciate our presence so much that I often find myself forgetting where I am when trying to treat and connect with a patient. It is readily apparent that the Haitian people here want so much to better the lives of the people in their community, and we’re doing our best to help one patient or family at a time with their health needs. However, real progress in Haiti will take a concerted effort, like that of the Integrated Community Development Program in Marmont. While we can treat patients for serious and minor illnesses, these are just a few of the symptoms of the disease of severe poverty which afflicts so many here.

Drew Martowski is a medical student at the University of Miami.

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