They’re back and already planning their return. Students from the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM), who spent their spring break in Haiti on a medical mission, say they’ll be back next year.
The group of 17 volunteers included nine HWCOM students, pre-med students and a couple of parents, one of whom is a nurse, the other a doctor. They each paid for their own expenses, but raised $4,500 to hire a local Haitian physician as well as buy medical supplies and over-the-counter medications.
Operating in a makeshift clinic at a church in Cap-Haitien, the students helped treat more than 300 patients – many of whom had never seen a doctor.
“I feel like we did make an impact,” says Yves-Dany Accilien, one of three Haitian-born students who organized the trip. “Although sometimes there was little we could do, it was more than they had because before they had nothing.”
Their impact appears to have gone beyond health care. Med student Stevenson Chery says he was struck by one of the youngest patients: a 4-year-old girl who had never before seen a doctor.
By the end of her visit, she asked Chery for his stethoscope so she could listen to his heart because she wanted to be just like him. “I felt like our presence didn’t only serve to provide service, but also impacted kids like Rolanda to inspire her to be a doctor,” he says.
Part of the students’ mission was to hold informal meetings with local residents to provide general health education on topics ranging from sexually transmitted diseases to diabetes and hypertension. “We found a lot of misconceptions,” Samuel Jean-Baptiste says. “People don’t know basic things. We met a woman who thought diabetes was contagious!”
After four days in Haiti, the students packed up to head home; but, as it turned out, their mission was not over. Their last patient was at the airport – a woman had a stroke-induced seizure while waiting for their same flight to Miami.
The students and professionals in the group helped stabilize the woman, called for an ambulance and helped strap her into the gurney. They also convinced her husband to postpone the trip and take her to the hospital because she needed immediate attention.
The students have created a website that includes a blog and photos of their medical mission trip – a memorable experience they hope to repeat on their next spring break.