Trinity School of Medicine sent three Senior Medical Students to Haiti as part of the medical team supporting the initiatives of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project of Habitat for Humanity International. For the second year, Trinity students have traveled to the city of Leogane to support the efforts of the volunteers buidling new homes in the wake of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left areas of the country devastated in 2010.
Sarah Theart, returning to the project for her second year, was joined by fellow students Seth Clohosey and Kris Vlahovic. Seth and Kris shared their accounts of the experience as volunteers with the medical team.
“I wanted to participate in this service project because it provided me with the opportunity to make a positive contribution supporting the medical needs of a hard working group of volunteers as they built homes in Haiti. It also turned out to be an excellent learning experience as working in a resource-limited setting presented a unique set of challenges not seen in the common medical setting,” stated Seth. Kris saw the opportunity to make a positive impact on a nation desperately in need.
“I saw the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project as an opportunity to utilize all of the knowledge and skills that I have acquired throughout my medical training and put them towards a great cause.“
When asked to describe the part of the experience that impacted them the most, Seth described his impression of their arrival. “The trip from the airport to our campsite on the first day - witnessing the very real poverty in which a majority of Haitians have to endure, was very difficult see. It left me with the resolve to spend more of my time helping those in need and with an appreciation for how lucky we have it in North America.”
Trinity Students Kris Vlahovic, Seth Clohosey and Sarah Theart
Kris shared that, “Watching so many individuals come together from across the globe to work tirelessly towards a common goal was very inspirational. Participating in the cause alongside President Jimmy Carter and all the volunteers was a great reminder of the huge impact a small group of people can have on an under-served population in need.”
“Our main priority was to ensure the safety and well being of the 600 volunteers and local Haitian population. We provided medical management of various illnesses throughout the week, placed IV lines in volunteers suffering from serious dehydration, and provided medical care for minor and more serious work-related injuries. We provided medical care both on the work site and back at the base camp where our clinic was open to the volunteers throughout the majority of the night. We had an excellent medical team - consisting of paramedics, ER nurses and doctors across various specialties, each with their own unique skills to offer. Everyone was very approachable and more than happy to teach and I felt comfortable asking for advice if needed. Our team became very close throughout the week, and everyone was very supportive and willing to learn from one another."
We were fortunate to not have any major accidents this year although if there had been one we would have been expected to assist the medical team leaders as required. We were also given the opportunity to build when nobody required medical attention.
Experiences like these can and do change lives. With one hundred new homes built, there are many families in Haiti whose lives have been significantly impacted. For Kris, Seth and Sarah it was a meaningful experience as well.
Having the opportunity to work along-side two emergency physicians, a pulmonologist, and an orthopedic surgeon with all of their clinical knowledge and skills that they were more than willing to share was amazing. Seth gained “More confidence working with patients in the field.” While Kris came away believing that, “forming doctor-patient relationships with the volunteers and Haitian people allowed me to further develop as a competent and compassionate physician.”
The Students agreed that participating in the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project was an incredible experience that provided them with a great amount of insight into the field of global heath, and will enabled them to develop into a more rounded physicians. Working with Habitat for Humanity was an excellent, eye opening, and tremendously rewarding experience that they would certainly participate in again.