Yale joins Haiti effort

A team of six physicians and medical professionals from the Yale School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital flew to Haiti Tuesday morning to provide humanitarian aid for up to two weeks. Team members said they hope to help out with Haiti’s recent crisis by collaborating with the groups already on the ground.

“We really want to go to Haiti to help with its recovery,” team member Gregory Larkin said. “We can bring supplies and drugs that they haven’t been able to get with any consistency.”

The team is bringing $12,000 of medical equipment and supplies donated by Yale-New Haven Hospital, including a cardiac monitor and a defibrillator. Such items that are standard in American hospitals but rare in Haiti, even under normal circumstances, Larkin said.

And the situation in Haiti now is anything but: On Jan. 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 150,000 people and leaving one million homeless.

School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern said this was the right time for the team to go. If the team went too early, the infrastructure to get them to the victims wouldn’t be exist, Alpern said. But if they went too late, he added, too many patients would die unnecessarily.

“The key was to get the right expertise and timing,” Alpern said.

Alpern added that the relief organizations requested doctors that are familiar with medicine in underdeveloped areas, can practice with few resources and have already had the proper vaccinations. The School of Medicine encouraged faculty members to volunteer, Alpern said.

Once in Haiti, the team will join with Partners in Health, a Boston-based organization that has been active in Haiti for more than 20 years. Partners in Health will direct the New Haven team once they are in the country.

Because there is a chance the supplies could be stolen or lost, Larkin said, the equipment is being shipped in three separate trucks. That way, if two of the packages are stolen, the group would still have enough supplies to work with, Larkin said. The devastation has driven people to steal basic necessities such as food and water from relief packages bound for various hospitals.

While the doctors are abroad, their colleagues back in New Haven will cover for them, Larkin said.

Many in the group are motivated by the opportunity to serve Haiti in a time of need.

Anesthesiologist Nousheh Saidi said it was the right time in her life to volunteer. Saidi lived in the Dominican Republic for four years, giving her a greater understanding of the medical standards in the area. She also knows Spanish and French, which she said will allow her to understand Haitian Creole, a local language similar to French.

Peter Boone, an orthopedic surgeon with a private practice in Trumbull, Conn., said he had started to lose hope of finding a group to volunteer with in Haiti until a nurse in an operating room told him about the New Haven team. Boone said the need for professionals in Haiti with his expertise was too pressing to ignore.

In addition to donating the medical supplies being shipped with the team, Yale-New Haven Hospital has pledged to donate $5,000 to Haiti via the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. The hospital has also donated $18,000 in supplies shipped via AmeriCares, a Stamford, Conn.-based non-profit that gives disaster relief and medical aid in response to a crisis.

A benefit concert for Haiti at Woolsey Hall on Jan. 18 raised at least $25,000.

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