Q&A with Veteran Volunteer Sam Abelson
Dr. Sam Abelson is an Emergency Room doctor from Minnesota who is passionate about Haiti. He has been a long-time volunteer with Project Medishare, generously giving his time and money to help ensure Haitians can access quality healthcare. After his most recent volunteer deployment at Hospital Bernard Mevs in Port-au-Prince, we sat down with Sam to learn more about his experience.
Why did you begin volunteering with Project Medishare at Hospital Bernard Mevs?
After watching the devastation in Haiti from the earthquake, I decided I needed to help in any way I could. A colleague at work had heard about Project Medishare, and told me about it.
How many times have you volunteered with Project Medishare?
I have lost track of how many times, but it’s somewhere around 20.
What keeps you coming back?
I continue to return for many reasons. First and foremost, the patients we all care for are appreciative of the help. The staff is outstanding, and also appreciates the help we as volunteers provide. Haiti is still a mess, but helping improve patient care at HBM makes one tiny corner of Haiti better.
What changes have you seen at HBM over the years?
Overall, I have seen dramatic improvement in the care and progress at the hospital. When I first arrived (November 2010), we were still in disaster mode. There were very few Haitian Doctors or nurses available to care for patients. Since that time, things have improved dramatically. The EMTs at HBM are secondary to none anywhere I have worked. The nurses are outstanding, all over the hospital, and many have developed excellent critical thinking skills through their
experiences and through outstanding leadership.
When I began, there was not a single ER doctor at HBM capable of staffing the ER alone. On my most recent trip (8/2016), the ER is now staffed 24/7 with excellent, kind caring and compassionate Haitian physicians, capable of running the ER 24/7 with no volunteer backup. That is tremendous progress!
In addition, the Peds residency program has improved pediatric care at the hospital in a very positive way, and I’m sure will provide the entire country with better-trained Pediatricians. Also, the physical structure at the hospital has improved dramatically. There are many new units, and lots more equipment.
Overall, during the 6 years I have been going to HBM, the place has improved astronomically, and continues to improve daily.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
The last thing I would say is “thank you” to everyone who has helped me while I have been in Haiti. Project Medishare and HBM have teamed up to provide excellent care to patients, and an amazing experience for volunteers. It is not easy to develop a system that allows volunteers to come every week, stay for a week, and work in an environment where they feel appreciated and can truly contribute.
Although at times working in Haiti can be frustrating, for me it has truly been a life changing experience. I hope to continue to return often, until my services become obsolete because the hospital is running so well! In NGO lingo, we call this sustainability, and the progress towards this goal has been amazing. Thanks for the journey!
Are you a medical professional interested in volunteering with Project Medishare? Learn more about our volunteer programs in Port-au-Prince and the Central Plateau.