A Medical Student’s Trip to Haiti
Lacey Menkin recently returned from a trip with Caneshare where she volunteered with us. This is the letter she sent out to her friends and family who contributed funds toward the trip:
“Thank you so much for your help in supporting my recent trip to Haiti. It was such an incredible experience, one which has positively influenced hundreds of lives (mine included!). During the week we were there, we worked alongside Project Medishare’s permanent staff, which consists of community health workers, nurses and doctors. Together, we visited the impoverished communities of the central plateau of Haiti. On 4 separate days we set up medical clinics where we were able to see some 500+ patients.
Me and one of our clinic patients
The group I traveled with consisted largely of first year medical students (and 2 second years and Ryan a 4th year from Ross) as well as two attending physicians, Dr. Fournier and Dr. Michelle. I was appointed as a “Junior attending” and therefore assigned my own group of medical students. We split each clinic up into three stations: Women’s Health and Prenatal Care, Adult Medicine, and Pediatrics. Dr. Fournier, Dr. Michelle and I were each responsible for one of the three stations and had a group of 5 medical students to assist us. The medical students would take vital signs, get a preliminary history and physical exam and then present the patients to me. Together we would then go over the pertinent findings and come up with a plan to best treat our patients.
Me and my fellow medical students (Shelly, Bryanna, me, Olivia, Ryan and Rob)
Common medical problems we encountered included infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, and Tuberculosis. We saw many children with parasites and malnutrition who we were able to treat and even sign up for nutritional assistance programs. We saw many adults with untreated hypertension and heart disease. And among the pregnant women we were able to screen for high risk pregnancies to refer to Project Medishare’s new Maternal Health Center as well as provide every pregnant woman with prenatal vitamins. I learned how to determine fetal lie and look for fetal heart tone without using an ultrasound machine, but just doing it the old fashioned way — with my hands!
My Haitian friends help me to demonstrate that IT’S ALL ABOUT THE U
I was overwhelmed with how humble and grateful our Haitian patients were. Despite the fact that most of them live in wooden houses (which in the U.S. we would consider more of a shack than a house) the moment you set foot near their homes they would run out to offer you a chair to sit in. I was able to practice my Haitian Creole and rather than laughing at my (poor) attempts to speak their language, the Haitian people seemed pleased that I was making an effort. I also made friends with the Haitian doctors who are at a similar point in their training as I am (Dr. Stephanie #1 and Dr. Stephanie #2) as well as our pharmacist (Navette) and nurse (Rosemarie) all of whom spent countless nights teaching me Creole, while I helped them with their English.
A Haitian boy shares his home with us
I was also incredibly impressed with the medical students I had the honor of working with. It was such a gift for me to be able to take all of the things I have learned in the last 4 years of medical school and share them with such a bright, caring group of individuals. The students were always eager to learn and more importantly even more eager to help their patients. Their dedication to public health was inspiring. By the end of the trip my first year medical students were seeing patients, diagnosing problems and coming up with management plans at a level that far exceeds their one year of medical school training. I am so proud of them and the work that we accomplished together with our Project Medishare counterparts.
Translators Delui and Francisse, Community Health worker Frank, Students: Andrew, Rob, Cat, Nisha, Lacey, Claudia and Ryan
I owe special thanks to Dr. Fournier, Dr. Green and Marie for making all of this possible. And especially thanks to you for your support. The trip would not have been possible without you. I want you to know that it is because of you, that many people are living a much happier, healthier life!