emory-wire

Picture This: Serving Haitian Roots

Emory alumni and other healthcare workers shared photos and experiences from a mission trip to Haiti.

By Elizabeth Cobb Durel
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KORE Haiti

"An entire year's worth of planning and correspondence all culminated on this ultimate Saturday morning with 26 strangers and some familiar faces meeting at Fort Lauderdale airport at 3 a.m." says Sam Jean-Baptiste 12Ox 14C. After checking in their own bags and the twenty-two bags/luggage of supplies filled with tools and supplies they were on their way.

KORE Haiti

"This year, we decided to have lunch at Kaliko beach, a resort that erased the conventional perspective of Haiti as the poorest country in the western hemisphere," says Sam Jean-Baptiste 12Ox 14C. "The majestic undulating waveform of mountain figures in the background of clear blue skies, reflecting on glistening beach water, removed all the fatigue of being sleep deprived."

KORE Haiti

"There was also a focus on providing culturally appropriate care," says Andrea Najarro 12Ox14N 15N. "The added layer was the acknowledgement of the limited physical resources that were available in the community and being creative with the plans for care. Many of us had to alter the treatments, education, and reassurance given to patients."

KORE Haiti

"On the first afternoon, we provided words of motivation and inspiration to the younger generation, and others joined in on the encouragement as well," says Islande Resignac 19N. "The youth seemed rather thankful and enthusiastic, and it was warming to see how bright their smiles shined."

KORE Haiti

"The first day ended with team listening to Mayor/Pastor Gueillant's inspirational words, and sharing with one another our individual hopes for this mission," says Andrea Najarro 12Ox 14N 15N. "There was one common theme that seemed to emulate from every individual: the desire to make a positive change."

KORE Haiti

"We realized what worked, what didn't work, which medications were a high demand based on common diagnoses, how important it was to explain the medicine dosages, and the importance of being compliant with the meds to each patient with a prescription medicine," says Islande Resignac 19N.

KORE Haiti

"We pulled up to the clinic to find a line already forming, with many Haitians young and old eagerly waiting, some since 5 a.m., just to get a spot in line," says Islande Resignac 19N who worked with her fellow KORE volunteers to set up three main departments: OB/GYN, General Medicine (w/ a subdivision of Peds) and Dentistry.

KORE Haiti

"I would ask patients questions, and watch as they blinked their eyes at me, unable to understand what I was saying," says Islande Resignac 19N. "Sighing, I'd tap my team partner, Sony, and he would swoop in and translate more accurately, and the patients smiled as they responded in understanding."

KORE Haiti

"People have come from several different backgrounds, specialties, studies, and hometowns: business, pharmacy, Florida, pediatrics, public health, Haiti, orthopedics, nursing, Vietnam, and IT, just to name a few," says Andrea Najarro 12Ox 14N 15N. "Our compassion for humanity unites us. What the world sees as different amongst us, we have used as strengths."

KORE Haiti

"The dentists were in the back jamming out with a portable speaker and performing extractions and prophylactic cleaning," says Sam Jean-Baptiste 12Ox 14C, describing the surprisingly festive sounds from this fourth trip. In previous trips, General Medicine was the core, but this year, OB/GYN and Women's health, pediatrics, dentistry, and sports medicine, as well as health education sessions were added to the mix.

KORE Haiti

"The flow incorporated four volunteers in intake/vitals," says Sam Jean-Baptiste 12Ox 14C, "One volunteer doing flow and directing patients; three dentists and an assistant in the dental clinic; an ob/gyn, an assistant, an observer and a lab specialist for analyzing wet prep slides; a pharmacist and three to four assistants in the pharmacy; and everyone else in general clinic rooms including the sport medicine fellow and the pediatric nurse practitioner."

KORE Haiti

"Sun blazing," says Islande Resignac 19N of the annual basketball game of the KORE volunteers versus friends from the St. Michele community. "Team players practice shooting. Missing and making. Jumping and rebounding. Opponents arriving. Soon the game is beginning. Dribble. Shoot. Pass. Miss. Whoops. Rebound. And it's good! Foul here, travel there. Free throws sinking in. Going hard in the paint. Game over."

KORE Haiti

"This year we incorporated a mandatory women's health education session prior to being seen in clinic," says Sam Jean-Baptiste 12Ox 14C. "The women all eagerly lined up to file into the education room to learn about hygienic practices, self-breast examination using a model, managing menstruation and menopause. The sessions were such a big hit that a body guard had to be assigned to the doorway."

KORE Haiti

"Many of us looked into the crowd of faces today and saw the beginning of our roots," says Andrea Najarro 12Ox 14N 15N. "We saw the young faces of our parents, and the hands of our grandparents, worn and wrinkled. Every person we saw may have been a stranger to us, but the look in their eyes was a familiar one. In every one of them we saw a piece of ourselves: humanity."

KORE Haiti

"Wake up. Shower. Breakfast. Load the bus. Open the clinic." says Islande Resignac 19N. "This step-by-step routine was engrained in all of us."

KORE Haiti

As the trip wrapped up, volunteers began planning for the next year, their own plans as well as who plan to recruit to address the shortage of medical specialists. More than 700 patients were seen by general, dental, and ob/gyn clinics. More than 300 local women participated in the women's health education sessions and 34 patients were referred for follow-up lab tests or surgical consult with the Baptist surgical team.

Almost three dozen volunteers spent a week in St. Michel, Haiti in March to train the next generation of maternity care providers in the rural community. It was KORE Haiti’s fourth annual mission trip and along with their usual primary care clinics, they were hoping to address the most common causes of maternal and infant mortality in the region.

KORE Haiti, a 503© focused on alleviating the burden of disease in rural communities in Haiti through sustainable efforts, was founded in 2015 by three Haitian-born first-year medical students at the Florida International University, one of whom is Sam Jean‑Baptiste 12Ox 14C. In this year’s group of volunteers, along with Jean‑Baptiste, there were two other Emory alumni, Andrea Najarro 12Ox 14N 15N and Islande Resignac 19N.

Though an applied mathematics major, Jean‑Baptiste enrolled in humanities courses at every opportunity during his time at Emory, adding that his favorite class was Global Resistance: Medicine, Education, and Labor. “One thing I carried with me from it is that the best way to make lasting changes is to be rooted in the community and empower individuals,” says Jean‑Baptiste.

And though he currently calls Florida home, the now third-year medical student spends much of his time looking towards his roots in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world where, according to the CIA World Factbook, almost 70% of the people live in poverty, and average GDP is about $1800. Its healthcare system, never particularly strong, was severely weakened with the 2010 earthquake, the subsequent cholera outbreak, and the recent hurricanes. In this year’s group of volunteers, along with Jean‑Baptiste, there were two other Emory alumni, Andrea Najarro 12Ox 14N 15N and Islande Resignac 19N. We asked them to take photos, keep notes, and share their experiences with EmoryWire.

“Like most of Haiti’s rural communities, St. Michel is full of joyous and bright individuals who lacked access to proper health care,” says Jean‑Baptiste. “In our group, we were from Nigerian, Cuban, Jamaican, Guatemalan, Vietnamese and St. Maartenese, but despite differences in background and circumstances, we all had the same goal of raising a community in need.”

Are you interested in providing aid to people in other countries? KORE Haiti is staffing up its 2019 mission trip. If you want to do something positive in your local chapter, consider joining an Emory Cares International Service Day project. For more ways to get involved, subscribe to receive invitations from a group that fits you.