Samaritan medical residents Eva Sandberg, DO, and Michelle Pies, DO, traveled in October to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere as part of a two-week medical mission. They were accompanied by Samaritan family physician Margo Carr, MD, and other volunteers in support of the Haiti Health Initiative.
They arrived by plane in Haiti, a country still struggling to rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. Amidst political protests in the capital Port-au-Prince, they took a van, avoiding rock piles, burning tires and potholes, around blind curves up a narrow mountain road, before walking to the bottom of a valley after the road ended to a rural village, Timo.
Haiti Health Initiative projects include operating a medical clinic, treating anemia, diagnosing and treating hypertension, providing eye care, teaching people about health topics, such as sanitation and newborn care, and educating midwives.
Sandberg helped to teach an OB skills class to a group of traditional birth attendants, who have no formal certification or education, and often provide the only care available to women in rural communities. She reviewed several topics related to birthing and obstetrics, including basic prenatal care, dating pregnancies and managing complications.
“They carry a huge amount of responsibility,” Sandberg said. “The experience was incredibly enlightening and has left a lasting impression on me.”
The first day they set up under a large tarp between two houses, before moving to a community center. The Samaritan physicians were joined by three other doctors, two nurses, two dietitians, an EMT, a pharmacist, and ophthalmologist. The team cared for 130 to 180 people each day, giving group education lessons, and handing out hygiene kits and vitamins to prevent blindness. While some physicians stayed in the clinic, others went on home visits to care for the elderly and sick who could not make it in.
Pies said the house calls were her favorite experience from the trip that changed her life and made her a better doctor.
“This is an incredibly rewarding experience,” Pies said. “Traveling to Haiti strengthened my diagnostic skills.”
The medical team brought hundreds of premade cloth sanitary pads, and patterns to teach women how to make reusable sanitary pads as part of the worldwide project, Every Girl, Everywhere, Period, which helps young women continue to attend school and work during their menstrual periods.
The physicians also brought thousands of pairs of glasses and dozens of kits for midwives. Carr said she hopes that participating in Haiti’s Health Initiative projects could become an annual trip for Samaritan’s medical residents.
“I was happy to be part of a group with a long view towards helping these people who are so beautiful and resilient,” Carr said.