Though both the Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven-Hospital have focused on sending money and medical supplies rather than official groups of doctors to South Asia for tsunami disaster relief, a number of Yale physicians and public-health experts have formed independent teams to provide assistance in Sri Lanka.

One such group from the medical school left for Colombo, Sri Lanka on Dec. 31 and has since treated at least 1,500 patients at camps around and within the region. Additionally, two staffers from the hospital will travel to the northeastern part of the country later this month to treat victims.

Director of Yale Medicine Publications Michael Fitzsousa said the seven-person medical school team, which includes University-affiliated Drs. Ramin Ahmadi EPH ’97, Sherwin Nuland MED ’55, Padmini Ranasinghe EPH ’05, Majid Sadigh and Monique Tello, have had limited contact with Yale since their departure but sent information regarding their experiences in an e-mail last week.

“They have been providing medical care and assessing the situation,” Fitzsousa said.

The e-mail, sent by Tello to her colleagues, describes how the team has treated a large number of patients with diagnoses including respiratory infections, diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, wound infections, malnutrition, scabies and mumps. The doctors are helping a local health disaster response team that lacks adequate personnel to visit all the camps.

Members of the team have employed their various areas of expertise to assist in the situation, according to the e-mail.

Nuland, a clinical professor of surgery at the medical school, has aided in treating the many wounds and abscesses the doctors have encountered and Joanne Cossitt EPH ’05 has assembled epidemiologic data collection forms from the team’s camp visits to determine which camps need more help and where epidemics are emerging. Tello, a pediatrician, wrote that she saw between 26 and 40 patients per camp visit.

The medical school team has travelled to at least six camps, most in churches and schools, and has seen between 250 and 275 patients per camp.

The other team, which includes neurosurgery resident Dr. Ty Thaiyananthan and physician’s assistant Brian Korn, will leave for Sri Lanka Jan. 20, bringing along medical supplies such as IV sets, wound packing equipment and antibiotics.

“We have collected a whole bunch of medical supplies from Yale and Bridgeport [Hospital] and plan to go into villages and see if we can help people who haven’t gotten aid yet,” Thaiyananthan said.

Thaiyananthan and Korn will be part of a 10-person team organized by the International Medical Health Organization, a humanitarian group, and will work for two weeks before returning. Thaiyananthan said he has spoken with other doctors currently in the region about the wide range of medical needs.

“It sounds like we can expect to do everything from minor surgery to amputations,” Thaiyananthan said.

Medical School Dean Robert Alpern said the school is presently focusing on the need for supplies, rather than physicians, in the affected regions.

“Our assessment is that what is needed most at the present time is money for supplies,” Alpern said in an e-mail. “We therefore have provided information to our students, staff and faculty regarding how best to do this. This may change in the future, and there may be a need for physicians to travel there. We will follow closely.”

Yale-New Haven Hospital spokesman Mark D’Antonio said while the hospital has discussed working with The Kingdom Life Christian Church in Milford to send money and medical supplies to South Asia, he declined to comment on details at the present time, as the agreement has yet to be made official.

Fitzsousa said many students and faculty at the medical school have suggested ways the school can extend its efforts in the coming weeks.

“There has been a significant response from the medical school community, with lots of people contacting the dean’s office with ideas about how Yale can help,” he said.

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