It has been a month since my most recent medical trip to Haiti, and I’m already counting down the days until and preparing for the next trip. This was my third trip to Haiti as a provider, but every trip brings new experiences and people to see.
Community Health Initiative Haiti is an organization that provides medical care in two villages in Haiti in solidarity with the Haitian population. CHI was founded by Dr. Chris Buresh and Dr. Josh White in 2012. The project takes five medical teams and two surgical teams yearly to provide ongoing primary, surgical and emergency care. The American groups team with Haitian staff to provide this care. CHI’s long-term goal is for the Haitian community to “identify their most pressing problems, work together to create solutions, and possess the agency to bring those solutions to fruition.” You see, the big picture idea is for these communities to have the strength and resources to stand on their own two feet without the help of American teams.
It is no secret that Haiti is a struggling country. From tremendous natural disasters to poverty to political strains, Haiti has been dealt some difficult cards time and time again. Recently, political unrest was swarming the country, making travel to this beautiful land unsafe. The Haitian staff were able to hold two mini clinics over the past six months, as one surgical and two medical teams were unable to travel due to safety concerns. This is a true example of our Haitian partners continuing the work.
After six months of being away, a small American team got the go-ahead to travel. This group consisted of four providers, one pharmacist, one paramedic, one nurse and three non-medical volunteers. We met with two Haitian physicians and several other Haitian interpreters and community health workers. This was certainly a tiny team, but great work was accomplished. Over the course of one week, thousands of pills were counted, upward of 1,200 patients were evaluated and greatly needed prescriptions were provided.
A team typically sees anywhere from 200 to 300 patients in a day. This includes patients of all ages seeking medical and dental care. A Haitian dentist is on staff and will see patients along with the medical team. CHI also has a ReSpectacle station where donated glasses are provided to patients with vision changes. Our top visits are for management of musculoskeletal pain, hypertension, headaches and acid reflux. Of those visits, some notable moments include helping severely malnourished children receive the help needed, lower some of the highest blood pressures I’ve ever seen, provide many patients with prenatal care, and help deliver a perfect, squishy little baby.
Equally important during this trip was the development and growth of relationships with the beautiful people in the community. Prior to the start of the clinic week, our team had a chance to spend time with the families and children in Do Digue, one of the communities where clinic is held. I am that silly girl that brings nail polish to Haiti and had so much fun singing with the kids and doing a little pampering.
Until the work is done!
Rachel Doggett, M.S.P.A., PA-C, is a physician assistant in the DMU Family Medicine Clinic, where she evaluates and treats patients as well as teaches medical students in the clinical medicine lab. She has previous experience in pediatric urology and urgent care medicine. She enjoys medical missions and has been on several trips to Kenya and Haiti. She plans to join DMU’s global health team next year for a medical trip to the Dominican Republic. When she is away from medicine, she enjoys traveling, playing violin in the Des Moines Community Orchestra, teasing her two nephews and being a crazy cat lady mom to Alvin, Lucy and Harry.