Dartmouth-Hitchcock medical personnel return to Haiti
Lebanon, NH—The Dartmouth Haiti Response effort is sending another medical team to the Caribbean-island country that a major earthquake ravaged in January of 2010.
On Sunday, Feb. 20, a medical team from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in White River Jct., VT, will join a former DHMC surgeon at a Partners In Health (PIH) hospital in Cange, Haiti, to focus on plastic and reconstructive surgery. After a week at Cange, the team, with Dartmouth-Hitchcock plastic surgeon Joseph M. Rosen, MD, as leader, will return on Feb. 27.
"We've been looking at reports of the cases, and most of them are people with trauma - recent vehicle accidents or burns," said Rosen, a professor of surgery at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS). "We also expect to see some people with carry-over injuries from the time of the earthquake who need follow-up care."
In addition to Rosen, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock team includes James A. Geiling, MD, chief of medical service at the VAMC; anesthesiologists Michael L. Beach, MD, PhD, and Robert A. Jarrett, MD; nurse Tommy Leblanc, RN; and Christopher Jensen MD, a former DHMC plastic surgeon now in private practice in Alaska. In the aftermath of the quake last winter, Geiling led the second team - mostly critical-care nurses - that Dartmouth Haiti Response sent to Port-au-Prince.
In June of 2010, citing safety concerns and a need to re-evaluate its strategy, the Dartmouth Haiti Response temporarily stopped sending medical teams. During this period, the Response continued to send medical supplies, help with efforts to combat an outbreak of cholera, and oversee educational initiatives, while DHMC and DMS experts in infectious disease traveled to the island as individuals to work on other medical projects.
"At the time it was a difficult decision [to wait before sending new teams], but ultimately the right decision," said John R. Butterly, vice president of medical affairs for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health (DHH). "After taking the summer and fall to assess our position and after consultation with Partners In Health, we have clear directions on how we can best support the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti. This new team is the result of that consultation and direction."
Rosen said that all members of the new team "have been on this kind of mission before," and that clinicians from the previous Haiti trips - including trauma surgeon Rajan Gupta, MD - have offered guidance on what to expect.
"We're looking at this effort the way Partners In Health approaches its work," Rosen concluded. "You give a little gift, and get a bigger gift in return. We work with the providers who are in Haiti, learning from them as well as helping them and the patients. We try to emphasize sharing information and interacting with them, more than showing them what to do."
The Dartmouth Haiti Response is an ongoing collaboration among DHMC, Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical School, and PIH, a humanitarian relief organization co-founded by Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, MD, PhD. The Dartmouth Haiti Response Steering Committee is dedicated to continuing to collaborate with PIH and other health-care organizations in deploying teams of volunteer medical, nursing, and rehabilitation professionals in Haiti, and to share education and clinical expertise with their counterparts in Haiti.