For Release: January 29, 2010
David Corriveau, Media Relations Officer, Dartmouth Medical School, at David.A.Corriveau@Dartmouth.edu or 603-653-0771
Robin Kish, administrator of public affairs for the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, at email@example.com or at 561-659-1270, extension 5828
DMS grad, wife join Haiti effort
Belle Glade, Florida—A graduate of Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) and son of former DMS faculty members was treating survivors within three days of the magnitude-7.0 earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti on January 12.
And throughout his three days at a triage center near the Port-au-Prince airport, Dan Kairys, M.D., DMS 1997, was wishing he could treat the broken hearts as well as the wounds and the broken bones.
"The saddest moments were identifying with the mothers and fathers who could do no more for their dying children than hold their hands and fan their faces to shoo the flies," says Kairys, a 1990 graduate of Dartmouth College and the father of three children. "The quietness of their suffering is hard to describe."
Kairys, the staff surgeon for Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade, rushed to Haiti on January 15 with his wife, Junia - a Haiti-born physician's assistant - at the request of Project Medishare. Like Partners in Health (PIH), the aid organization that hosted the Dartmouth teams at the urging of Dartmouth College President and PIH co-founder Jim Yong Kim, Medishare has been serving Haiti's poorest citizens for years.
"It's very difficult to impossible to be effective without the logistical support of an existing organization with a network of connections," the 41-year-old Kairys says. "It's impossible to find flights to Port au Prince outside of established organizations."
Kairys had worked as a volunteer for Medishare in Haiti during his third year of medical school, under a partnership between DMS and the University of Miami. And through Medishare, he met Junia, who was then making travel arrangements for the non-profit. Kairys describes the inequalities he saw during his volunteer work in Haiti as spurs to take up surgery as a specialty.
That, and following the footsteps of his father, former Dartmouth pediatrician and DMS faculty member Stephen Kairys, M.D., into medicine. In the early 1970s, the elder Kairys served alternative military service on an Indian reservation in Montana before coming to Dartmouth for his pediatric residency.
"He was a huge influence, subliminally," the younger Kairys recalls. "I never set out consciously to 'serve the underserved.' I just don't have any other model of what a doctor would do."
While the Kairyses worked with MediShare in the days after the earthquake, Kairys's mother, former DMS faculty member Jo Ann Kairys, looked after their three children.
"He puts himself on call for his patients [at Lakeside] 24/7," says Jo Ann Kairys, who taught in DMS' department of community and family medicine until she and her husband moved to New Jersey in 1997. "He speaks Creole and Spanish fluently so he can communicate with referring doctors and patients."
Dan Kairys' Haitian-born patients and staff members at Lakeside are still expressing their gratitude for his and Junia's efforts.
"Many [have] missing or confirmed-dead family," Kairys said. "[Yet] many people are optimistic over the long-term future and thankful for the support of the world for their often seemingly-forgotten country."
To read more about Doctor Kairys' experience, click here.