Stories & News from Medical Missionaries

Learn more about the work of Medical Missionaries by reading updates on our programs, and the stories that our volunteers and Global Health Fellows have shared:

(And to keep up to date with our news, be sure to follow Medical Missionaries on Facebook.)

Dr. Gil Irwin of Medical Missionaries Receives 2017 Power of One AwardDr. Gil Irwin Receives Award For His Work to Improve Healthcare for the Poor

Dr. Gil Irwin, Founder and Director of Medical Missionaries, received the Patcha Foundation's 2017 Power of One Award in recognition of his work to improve healthcare for the poor. The award was presented at the Foundation's Annual CASEC Awards and Fundraising Gala on October 14, 2017.

The Foundation acknowledged Dr. Irwin's work:

"This award is given in recognition of your distinguished career, leadership, commitment, dedication and exemplary work in improving the health of all disenfranchised peoples.

Most significant is the lasting impact of Medical Missionaries, the organization you founded. Your work in Thomassique, Haiti is providing much needed health care services and saving the lives of thousands of otherwise forgotten Haitians.

Your medical outreach program continues to provide not only medicine, medical equipment and supplies, but medical practitioners as well, into the most remote regions across several continents, where there is little or no access to health care."

We congratulate Dr. Irwin on this recognition, along with all the volunteers who make the work of Medical Missionaries possible.

We also acknowledge the work that the Patcha Foundation (MMPF) is accomplishing, particularly through its CASEC (Cancer Awareness, Screening, Early detection and Care) Program that organizes cancer awareness programs and medical missions in Africa that provide medical services including cancer screening and treatment to thousands of participants for free.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, last year Medical Missionaries was able to donate medicines and medical supplies to the Patcha Foundation that helped them provide health care and surgeries to over 3,400 people in the far north region of Cameroon, Africa, where there are thousands of displaced persons suffering the affects of conflicts in the region.

 

18 oct 17 @ 4:33 pm 

Program Update: School Dental Hygiene Program

Student in Haiti Dental Hygine Program run by Medical MissionariesLaunched at the beginning of the 2016 school year, our pilot Dental Hygiene Program in a local Thomassique school has been teaching children the importance of brushing their teeth, and how to properly brush. Their progress was monitored throughout the year, and we saw a reduction of over 35% in the students' plaque index!

We plan to expand the program during the coming year. This can help Haitians lead healthier lives (we see many life-threatening infections at the clinic that have resulted from poor dental hygiene).

We thank Dr. Joseph Cavallo for taking the initiative to start this program in response to the great need he saw during one of his volunteer dental trips to Thomassique, We thank him and our other volunteer dentist, Michael Morch, for traveling to the Clinic for over 15 years to provide dental care for villagers who had never seen a dentist before. They are helping Haitians to lead healthier lives.

We also thank Colgate Palmolive for donating the toothpaste and toothbrushes that make this program possible.

   Charting progress in Dental Hygiene Program in Haiti run by Medical Missionaries   Medical Missionaries Global Health Fellow visits dental program in Haiti school

 

26 sep 17 @ 3:17 pm 

Haiti Community Leader Se JanvierFeatured Haiti Community Leader:
Sé Janvier

Sé Janvier, our Thomassique Klorfasil and Bon Sel Coordinator* in Haiti, does much to improve the health of villagers in her community through the work she does. She recently shared her thoughts with us about working with St. Joseph Clinic.

Why did you start working for St. Joseph Clinic?

The Thomassique Water Coordinator position was originally held by my sister. I had watched her do the reports and had gone with her on home visits and so, when she left Haiti, I knew it was something I could do--work I wanted to continue. 


What is your favorite part of the job? 

Thomassique is my home and because of all the home visits I do, I feel very included in the community. It is my job to encourage health and to make sure people understand the risks of not treating their water, but at the same time I get to visit old friends and make new friends. Also encouraging people and letting them know Klorfasil and Bon Sel is available and easy! It makes me feel good to know I am helping my community, my home.

Community Healthcare Worker in Rural Haiti- - - - -


*About our programs:

The Water Purification Program educates about the importance of using safe water, and promotes the use of Klorfasil (a water purification system) throughout the villages of Thomassique.

The Bon Sel (Good Salt) Program provides a fortified salt to prevent conditions that are endemic in Haiti, Iodine deficiency (essential for brain development), and the parasitic disease Lymphatic Filariasis (aka Elephantiasis).

 

23 aug 17 @ 9:22 pm 

Program Update: Maternity and Infant Care Program

Our Maternity and Infant Care Program at St. Joseph Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti, is currently staffed by 3 full-time midwives and a nurse skilled in midwifery who provide pre-natal consultations, assist with births, and conduct education sessions on postpartum and newborn health.

Newborn at St Joseph Clinic in Haiti The growth of this program since 2012 has been made possible by support from foundations committed to working with us to improve maternal and infant care in the region, by having experienced midwives on staff at the Clinic, training traditional birth attendants to work in Thomassique's outlying villages, and ensuring availability of medicines needed for prenatal and postnatal care.

In the first six months of 2017 (January through June), 200 babies were born at the Clinic, and in the outlying villages of Thomassique, our Matwons (Traditional Birth Attendants) have facilitated 688 at-home births!

With 75% of births in the region taking place in the home, extending maternal care to the outlying villages by training Matwons has become an important way for the Clinic to help women in remote villages have safe deliveries, and reduce maternal and infant mortality in the community.

In May 2017, our 4th class of Matwons completed their 22 weeks of training, and these 15 new Matwons joined the 29 who were previously trained, as they bring their new skills to help improve maternal and infant care throughout the region.

The Matwons come to the Clinic each month for additional education sessions, and to meet with the Clinic midwives. They also pick up "clean birthing kits" to use for the month.

Maternity and Infant Care Staff at St Joseph Clinic in Haiti

 

16 aug 17 @ 5:31 pm 


St. Joseph Clinic 10th Anniversary Celebration and the
Thomassique Health Fair


We celebrated the 10th anniversary of the opening of St. Joseph Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti, on June 4, 2017.

Improving Health Care in Haiti through EducationThe anniversary celebration started out with a Mass said by Fr. Ronel at St. Thomas, the local Catholic
church. Dr. Lawrence and our Global Health Fellows spoke at Mass to thank the Thomassique community for their support of the Clinic, and they invited everyone to attend the Thomassique Health Fair at the Clinic that afternoon.

Over 300 people participated in the Health Fair, which featured more than a dozen education tables. Clinic doctors, nurses, and Community Health Workers shared information with villagers about health issues that affect their daily lives.

Topics included the importance of vaccinations, dental hygiene, women's health, ways to improve nutrition, disease prevention, the importance of water purification, and more! At each table, the participants received tickets that made them eligible to win prizes in the raffle that followed. Along with the raffle, the participants enjoyed music and snacks.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about ways to improve the health of their families.

 

 

10 jun 17 @ 3:54 pm 

The Work of Medical Missionaries in 2016

Medical Missionaries had a busy year in 2016 in its efforts to serve the poor both in the USA and worldwide.

Supplies for USA Disaster ReliefIn the USA, Medical Missionaries provided Disaster Relief Assistance for victims of floods in West Virginia, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Read more about disaster relief in 2016. We also worked with other groups to send many sea containers of medical and household supplies to the needy throughout the world. Since our founding 20 years ago, we have shipped over 165 sea containers of supplies to those in need worldwide, and have provided disaster relief in the USA for victims of hurricanes, floods, and tornados. Our volunteers have also made over 300 trips to deliver supplies to Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Appalachia, and American Indian reservations in Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Our work in Haiti continues, with our focus on continuing support of St. Joseph Clinic in Thomassique which we opened in 2007. The Clinic is the only medical facility serving more than 125,000 people in Haiti’s Central Plateau, and its services continue to see significant growth.

In 2016 alone, more than 10,000 patients were seen at the Clinic for medical consultations, with another 3,396 receiving medical care at the mobile clinics conducted in Thomassique’s outlying villages.

Newborn at Medical Missionaries St. Joseph Clinic in HaitiIn the Maternity and Infant Care Program, over 300 babies were delivered at the clinic in 2016. The program is currently staffed by 3 full-time midwives and a nurse skilled in midwifery who provide prenatal consultations, assist with births, and conduct education sessions on postpartum and newborn health.

During the year, Matwons (Traditional Birth Attendants) trained by the Clinic assisted with more than 1,500 home deliveries in Thomassique’s remote outlying villages. Read more about the growing role of Matwons at the Clinic.

In our Vaccination Program, St. Joseph Clinic continued to serve as a coordinating site for the Ministère de la SantèPublique et de la Population (MSPP, the Haitian Ministry of Health) vaccination program. Each month hundreds of mothers receive vaccinations at the Clinic, plus Community Health Workers provide vaccinations in the outlying villages of Thomassique. Read more about vaccinations for mother and child.

Be sure to follow Medical Missionaries on Facebook to hear more about these and our other programs, including our Water Purification Program, School Lunch Program, Malnutrition Program,  and Bon Sel (Good Salt) Program.

Medical Missionaries 2016 Year in Review

16 may 17 @ 6:31 pm 

A Life Saved, With Lasting Impact for St. Joseph Clinic

Life-saving surgery at St Joseph ClinicOne story of service has had a lasting impact on St. Joseph Clinic.

In January 2008, a young man was brought to the Clinic just as a surgical team from the U.S. arrived. He had been paralyzed several years earlier, was confined to a wheelchair, and was brought in experiencing a fever and body aches. One of the visiting U.S. surgeons, Dr. Dave Snyder, and his nurse, Sherry Pace, examined the young man and determined that he was septic. Only immediate surgery would save his life. The U.S. team was able to perform exactly the surgery that he needed and saved his life.

That young man would regularly return to the Clinic to visit with the Medical Team when they were there. He also went on to graduate top in his class from the university in Hinche, majoring in business and accounting.

A few years later, Junior St. Fleur Charles would become the Manager of St. Joseph Clinic.

17 apr 17 @ 2:38 pm 

My Hope For All Children

Medical Care for Children in HaitiCarolyn Jeans
Medical Missionaries Board Member, Team Member

On one of our first medical trips to Thomassique a mother brought her baby to the clinic. The baby was drowning in her own secretions. She was about 6 months old, could no longer even hold her head up, and her eyes were all glassed over. We were all so upset knowing she would soon be just a statistic of a dead child in Haiti.

Dr. Irwin, undaunted, instructed us to give the baby an IM (intramuscular) antibiotic injection.

He then spoke with the mom and asked her to bring the child back in the afternoon for another injection. The mother brought the baby to the clinic twice a day for antibiotic injections. We were all amazed at how quickly the baby improved.  The afternoon of the third day the little baby came to the clinic in her Sunday best with a bonnet on her head and a big smile on her face.  It was such a miracle!!

This is what I hope for all little children.  It is one of the many reasons I continue with Medical Missionaries.

14 apr 17 @ 4:58 pm 

A Volunteer's Story

Judy on a Medical Team Trip to Haiti with Medical MissionariesJudy Corcoran
Warehouse Volunteer, Medical Team Member

In April 2008, I was looking for a local organization where I could use my nursing skills to help others. I wanted to volunteer with like minded and motivated people who shared a cause close to my heart.  A Web search lead me to Medical Missionaries. I was attracted by the fact that it is an organization dedicated to “helping the poorest of the poor”. 

I emailed Dr Irwin to set up a meeting. My involvement was not at all what I thought it would be; it turned out to be better. While I occasionally went on medical teams to Thomassique, I ended up helping at the Medical Missionaries warehouse on a regular basis.  Other volunteers showed me how to sort, label and store the incoming donated medical supplies. I learned that MM not only helps third world countries, but they help local folks in need. I was surprised at the wide variety of services Medical Missionaries provides to people in need, in the U.S. And many countries throughout the world.

I am glad to be a part of an organization that is making a difference.

 
14 apr 17 @ 4:44 pm 

William, Smiling and Full of Life

By Debra Parrish
Board Member, Surgical Team Leader

It’s amazing what can happen when you just put your arm around someone. It can lead to “fixing a broken heart.”

A Life Saved in HaitiI first met William in Banica during a surgical team trip.  Walking to and from the Banica hospital every day, I would encounter William and some of his seven siblings.  I passed out Tootsie roll pops to them.  Somehow, this little boy made a big impression on me.
 
The next year when I returned, William was at the side of the road and remembered me as the “Tootsie Roll Pop Lady.”  I wanted to get a photo of William and me. I bent down beside him and when I put my arm around him I felt a very profound heart murmur. I had our surgeons look at him.  They agreed that he had some major heart defects.

Not wanting William to die at an early age, I decided to try to arrange for the help he needed.  It took eight months to make the arrangements but William and his mother arrived in the U.S and spent thirty-one days at Ronald McDonald house in Washington, a few miles from the hospital where William would be treated for his heart problems.  

This only happened thanks to the efforts of many people and Medical Missionaries. Volunteers took care of the passport and VISA paperwork, served as translators, donated clothes, and provided hospitality to William and his mother.  American Airlines provided free tickets. The Larry King Heart Foundation and Children’s Hospital underwrote the hospital bills.  The cardiologist and surgeon donated their services.  

William had heart surgery and recovered quickly.  If not for the scar on his chest, you would never guess he even had surgery.  After several post-operative visits, William was given the green light to resume a normal life and he and his mother returned home.

Footnote: Each subsequent year when Debra returned on surgical teams, she would try to find William to check on his progress. She found him in February 2010, and was happy to see he is doing great, and took this photo with him.

11 apr 17 @ 10:27 pm 

 

Note:

To read blog posts from earlier years posted by our Global Health Fellows during their year of service in Haiti, visit the "Global Health Fellows' Blogs" on Blogspot (clicking this link will take you to thomassique.blogspot.com).

26 sep 12 @ 3:53 pm 

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