Medical Team - March 2009

In March, 2009, a medical team of 8 U.S. doctors, dentists, and nurses visited the Medical Missionaries clinic in Thomassique, Haiti for a week.  They provided care to residents of Thomassique and the surrounding communities.  They were accompanied by 8 medical students from Duke university, a trip organized by Julian Hertz, who was a Global Health Fellow at the clinic for a year before entering Duke's medical school.  This is a photo story of the visit.

St. Joseph's clinic is located on the main road in Thomassique, a city of about 65,000 people in the Central Plateau of Haiti, approximately 20 miles from the border with the Dominican Republic.

The 16 members of this visit traveled as a group to Santo Domingo, and from there by bus to Banica, Dominican Republic, where they overnighted at El Centro of St. Francis Assissi church. 

The following morning, they made a quick visit to the Sunday market in Banica.

By mid-morning, the group left Banica in the Medical Missionaries army truck for the two-hour (20 mile) ride to Thomassique.

Even though the route is a national highway, it is a narrow, dirt and stone road that is shared by people, animals, motor bikes, and occasional cars and trucks.

At several points, the road crosses small rivers (no bridges) which did not cause problems at this time of year (the dry season) but which can become quite treacherous during the rainy season (from May through October).

As the truck neared Thomassique, it was met by dozens of young people who had come out to greet Julian, kids he had befriended and helped during his year at the clinic.  It was quite a homecoming for him

While the doctors and nurses set up the surgical suite, dental suite, and sonogram equipment, the medical students got to work preparing to test people's vision and give them glasses.  They sorted through thousands of pairs of eyeglasses that had been donated by Lions clubs, arranging them according to strength of the correction.  During the week, they tested the eyes of over 700 people and gave new glasses to more than 600.

This man was happy to show off his new glasses when we visited him at his home a day later.

During the week, the medical students rotated through the many functions of the clinic, observing and helping out with dentistry, surgery, laboratory, x-ray and sonography.  They also had the opportunity to visit some of the outlying villages to observe living and health conditions.  One of the frst stops for many was surgery.  In this case, Dr. Dave explains what is involved in removing a cast and what he will do once it is removed.

Dentistry was new to many of the medical students.  They had an opportunity to observe and work with Dr. Mike and Mary, his assistant.

The sonography equipment is new to the clinic.  This trip provided sonography specialist, Dave, an opportunity to test it out and to teach the medical students and local clinic doctors how to operate the equipment and record and  interpret the results.

The students also took a walking tour through Thomassique, stopping at the "Poor House" to meet the residents. 
While they were there, nurse Carolyn saw an elderly lady cooking her lunch and noticed that she had her legs wrapped in rags; her feet were hurting.  She decided that the lady should be seen by the doctors at the clinic. 

The lady insisted on changing to her Sunday-best for her trip to the clinic.

Later in the week, the students had a chance to go to the "market" in Thomassique, which is held twice a week.

One of the rotations was to observe conditions in some of the outlying villages of Thomassique.  One village was Bouloume, home to about 7,000 persons.  We went to Bouloume for two purposes: to learn more about their water sources and to assess the feasibility of having a satellite clinic in the village.  It turns out that the people of Bouloume get their water from any of three sources.  The first source is a spring that was all but dry at this point in the dry season (from about November to the end of April).

The second source of water for Bouloume was another spring, only a little larger than the first source.

The third water source was another spring that feeds a small stream.  None of the three sources was gushing with water.  Tests done on the water showed that all three sources are contaminated.

The people of nearby Baranque are building a new lake which they hope will provide them with water on a more consistent basis in future years.

The people of Bouloume were so interested in what Medical Missionaries might do to help them that they organized a town-hall type meeting in which they heard from Dr. Gil about the possibilities and let him know of their hopes.

This visit also provided the students an opportunity to learn more from Dr. Gil about health needs in remote areas and how to respond to those needs.

Another group of students went to a remote part of Thomassique with Medical Missionaries Global Health Fellow, Rita, who was conducting household training for a water purification study she has initiated.  The houses involved in this study can only be reached by foot.

The houses in this part of Thomassique are very distant from one another.

The people who live here are among the poorest of the poor.  This house,  is home to a family of six.

This trip included visits to about a dozen houses.  At each house, Rita conducted a 15 to 20 minute lesson with the woman of the house on hygiene and the importance of purifying water.

Most of the sessions were conducted outdoors, some attracting neighbors who were curious about what was going on.

A few sessions were held indoors.

This outing also provide the medical students an opportunity to get to know some of the local children a little better.

On the way back to the clinic, the students observed children going to one of the public water fountains to get water for their families' afternoon and evening needs.

Back at the clinic, students had an opportunity to triage some patients prior to their being seen by the doctor.

They also were able to interact with local children in a very informal setting outside the clinic.

Each evening, following dinner, there was a seminar on a topic in tropical medicine: infectious diseases, water access and purification, surgery with limited resources, etc.

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