January 12, 2010 at 4:53 p.m. is a date and time filled with pain and agony. A 7.0 magnitude earthquake (a “goudougoudou” as Haitians called it) shook the Caribbean nation of Haiti resulting in one of the worst natural disasters seen in the Western Hemisphere. The goudougoudou left more than 200,000 people dead and 2.3 million displaced and homeless. Five years later over 85,000 people are still homeless.
Also in 2010, Haiti suffered a deadly cholera epidemic and was struck by Hurricane Tomas.
Shortly after these events, the Ochsner Haitian Relief Fund was established in response to the humanitarian medical crisis that unfolded in Haiti. The fund has allowed the Ochsner family to continue its support of the recovery and relief efforts in Haiti with a focus more on self-reliance and resiliency rather than dependency. The Fund works with Fondylsahh–a Haitian-based non-profit–to promote health, education, agriculture and economic development in Haiti.
Ochsner continues to honor its mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate on a global scale through its continued support of the recovery efforts in Haiti. Students from the University of Queensland Ochsner Clinical School participate in the Medicine in Society rotation by traveling to Haiti to provide medical care and training and in turn receive a life-changing experience.
UQ Medical Students share their experiences in their own words.
Our first day of clinic was such an amazing experience. We had the Minister of Health give a speech in the morning. Later Dr. Yvens Laborde said that the minister was very pleased with the clinic and its efforts to keep a sense of dignity to the Haitian people. I think what Dr. Laborde said–to preserve the dignity–was especially poignant because it preserved the humanity of serving and healing. I think people tend to lose sight of that – just because we are going to a third world country, we are still working with people who deserve first world care and I’m so glad and grateful that Dr. Laborde was able to provide this community the standard of care that all people should have access to despite what they can pay. Although standards are limited by resources, this clinic and what it provides for the community is able to give a standard of care they deserve.
We had a man carried into the clinic by three other men – he was on the brink of death. Throughout the whole process, I kept smiling at him because I couldn’t even imagine the fear he felt. I knew that whenever I felt scared or uncomfortable a smile from someone made all the difference. We were able resuscitate him with fluids. Later in the day, I saw him with a new set of clothes and he came up to me, held both of my hands and smiled. I knew then that this is why I was going to be a doctor. My experience is Haiti was indescribable – the compassion and humanity I witnesses are things that I know I will incorporate into my profession as a doctor.
Amanda Theppote, UQ Student
Haiti is gorgeous – truly the land of mountains beyond mountains. We spent time with lots of children and shared our stethoscopes to let them hear their own heartbeat and breath sounds. The way their eyes lit up when they heard the sound of their own heart was magical. Future doctors in the making!
Kathryn Vreeland, UQ Student
It feels good to help people that really need it. On this trip to Haiti we have more responsibility and freedom in treating patients. It is a great step forward in my medicine career.
Philip Barber, UQ Student