President’s Voice

Profession responds quickly to Haiti earthquake

AOA President Larry A. Wickless, DO, describes some of the relief efforts DOs and students have taken part in.

The death count from the devastating earthquake that wracked Haiti on Jan. 12 is now estimated at 230,000, with thousands of survivors remaining in urgent need of medical care. The extent of the suffering and the infrastructure damage in this already poverty-ravaged country is truly unfathomable.

“Bone fractures and skin lacerations in Haiti are shifting to more threatening and concerning public health issues,” wrote Reza Nassiri, DSc, the director of Michigan State University’s Institute for International Health in East Lansing, in an e-mail to colleagues 1½ weeks after the earthquake struck. “There is a high potential for disease outbreak in the days ahead.”

I am proud to report that many individuals and organizations in the osteopathic medical profession immediately responded to the still-unfolding tragedy. And many more DOs are planning to help in Haiti relief efforts.

Let’s thank the following members of our profession, who are among those making a difference in Haiti:

  • Known as “Father Rick,” the Rev. Leo R. Frechette, DO, has dedicated his life to ministering to the medical and spiritual needs of Haitians in and near Port-au-Prince. Dr. Frechette founded and runs Haiti’s St. Damien Hospital, the country’s only free pediatric hospital, which sustained considerable structural damage from the earthquake. The medical director of Nuestros Pequeños International, the Roman Catholic priest also established and oversees 18 street schools and numerous street clinics in Port-au-Prince and the St. Hélène Orphanage in Kenscoff, Haiti. Those wishing to make donations to St. Damien Hospital and the other programs spearheaded by Dr. Frechette in Haiti can do so through his religious order. Make checks payable to St. Paul’s Benevolent Educational and Missionary Institute—Haiti Mission. Mail donations to Father Rick Frechette, DO, 8980 SW 56th St., Miami, FL 33165.
  • Capt. Dennis E. Amundson, DO, MC, USN, a San Diego pulmonologist, has been deployed to Haiti as part of the U.S. military’s large-scale response to the disaster.
  • As The DO recently reported, Sidney Coupet, DO, MPH, the president of Doctors United For Haiti, traveled with a team of six medical personnel to Haiti two days after the earthquake struck. Dr. Coupet’s team performed an average of 20 amputations and debridements per day during its 10-day stay. The son of Haitian immigrants, Dr. Coupet is a second-year resident in general internal medicine at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa.
  • Jordan H. Greer, DO, who practices emergency medicine in Palmer, Alaska, decided to fly to Haiti with his two adult sons “about 30 seconds” after hearing about the disaster, Dr. Greer told the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, his local newspaper. Based from an orphanage in which his medical supplies were “guarded by men with guns,” Dr. Greer brought medical care to the makeshift tent cities that have sprung up throughout Port-au-Prince. Back home in Alaska, his wife spent long hours coordinating shipments of medications and other medical supplies to Port-au-Prince.
  • From Jan. 31 to Feb. 7, 35 students and faculty from the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Blacksburg provided care to evacuated Haitians from a hospital in Jimani in the Dominican Republic, near Haiti’s border.
  • Bruce D. Dubin, DO, JD, the dean of the Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colo., traveled to Haiti on Jan. 14 to help with relief efforts. He was joined by three students from the University of North Texas Health Science Center—Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth: William H. Betz, OMS III, Joanna F. Gibbons, OMS II, and Stephen Miller, OMS III. “We were seeing children and adults who had been under rubble or had been injured and had open wounds, lacerations and fractured bones and they were running the risk of developing severe infections and losing their limbs,” Dr. Dubin recounted in a Feb. 2 interview with a blog for Ladies Home Journal.
  • An assistant professor of emergency medicine at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in Old Westbury, Edward Cho, DO, MPH, flew to Haiti four days after the earthquake occurred to assess the needs of Haitian clinics and hospitals and help plan logistics for providing these institutions with relief. The director of NYIT’s Center for Global Health, Dr. Cho stayed in Haiti a week, during which he worked out an arrangement with Continuum Health Partners, a partnership of medical institutions in the New York City area, to send physicians and other health care professionals to Haiti on two-week mission during the next six months.

Please let The DO know of other organizations and individuals in the profession who are helping Haiti survivors in this time of greatest need.

AOA-DOCARE initiative

At its midyear meeting in Chicago earlier this month, the AOA Board of Trustees allocated $5,000 toward Haiti relief. This money will be used to support medical missions to Haiti that will be organized by DOCARE International in partnership with Doctors United For Haiti and Michigan State University. Managed by the AOA, DOCARE is a medical outreach organization dedicated to providing much-needed health care to indigent and isolated populations in the Western Hemisphere.

In addition to the $5,000 allocation from the AOA, DOCARE has raised $5,000 from members of the osteopathic medical profession for Haiti relief. To make a donation, send a check made payable to DOCARE International to Michael Mallie, executive director, DOCARE International, American Osteopathic Association, Fourth Floor, 142 E. Ontario St., Chicago, IL 60611-2864. Make sure to specify that your donation is for Haiti relief.

For information on volunteering on a DOCARE Haiti mission, e-mail

Preparing to help

Before volunteering to provide care in Haiti, it is essential for DOs and osteopathic medical students to understand what they will confront in this politically turbulent and high-crime, as well as disease-infested, country—the most destitute in the Western Hemisphere.

With the American Medical Association, which publishes the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, the AOA is co-sponsoring a webinar for medical responders deploying to Haiti. To take part in the seminar, register on the journal’s Web site.

On its Web site, DOCARE has posted a communiqué from the United Nations Department of Housing and Information that includes important contact information for those wishing to volunteer in Haiti.

Prior to traveling to Haiti, members of the profession should also review information on the country’s public health situation on the Web sites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Again, the AOA applauds all who are making personal sacrifices to volunteer in Haiti and those who are contributing money and medical supplies to relief efforts. We must remember that Haitians will need medical care and other relief long after the earthquake has receded from international news reports.

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