Emory Haiti Alliance: Delivering Free Surgical Care to Haiti
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. More than half of the population lives on less than $0.5 per day and lacks electricity, 41 percent occupy a home without running water, and only two out of 10 homes has access to a latrine. Most of the people rely on manual labor to make a living.
In 2007, a group of Emory University physicians conducted a medical needs analysis in Hinche, a small town located in Haiti's Central Plateau, and found a striking prevalence of general surgical and urological conditions that are typically diagnosed and treated long before they can become a problem in countries like the United States.
In response to this situation, in July of 2008 the Emory Haiti Alliance—formerly known as Emory Medishare until 2016—began sending surgical teams to offer free medical attention and operations to patients at L'Hôpital Sainte-Thérèse de Hinche, situated in the poorest and most medically underserved region in all of Haiti. The annual trips became a summer tradition that focuses on integrating medical education with humanitarian objectives. Gradually, the week-long journeys began lasting a month.
On these surgical trips, medical students of the Emory University School of Medicine assist faculty surgeons and surgery residents on complex surgical procedures while becoming acclimated to such conditions as minimal running water, ORs that function on a diesel generator, barely adequate lighting, and intermittent power outages that require the teams to operate by the light of headlamps. The students are also responsible for raising funds to finance the trips, making travel arrangements, recruiting physicians and staff, and procuring medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.
Over the years, the Emory Haiti Alliance surgical trips have developed into a month-long global surgery elective for senior medical students. The size of the teams has also increased to approximately 40 members, encompassing Emory anesthesiology, general surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and urology faculty; medical students; surgery residents; and mid-level practitioners. Larger teams and longer stays have allowed the teams to increase their caseloads by nearly 150 percent.
Participants often find the trips inspiring, especially as they encounter the strength and perseverance of the Haitian patients, many of whom are suffering from the types of severe conditions that often result from extreme poverty and lack of access to care. Transformed by these experiences, certain medical students have chosen careers in surgery or sub-surgical specialties with an international focus. Former members from the early years of the organization have helped craft Emory University's policies on extramural clinical experiences, advanced to residency positions with formal global health components, and met with leaders in the global surgery community at national meetings.
The alliance's June 4-25, 2017, excursion to the Hôpital Bienfaisance in Pignon, also in Haiti's Central Plateau, was an unequivocal success, with 60 surgeries performed and 100 patients seen in clinic. You can visit the 2017 trip's blog here, which features compelling and spontaneous photos that highlight the dedication of the team, the impact they achieved, and the meaningful relationships they experienced.
Next Surgical Trip: June 1-30, 2018
From June 1-30, the Emory Haiti Alliance will be engaged in its 11th surgical trip to Haiti, and will once again be working alongside their Haitian colleagues at the Hôpital Bienfaisance in Pignon. The alliance's medical students are still raising funds to finance the journey, as well as collecting donations for supplies, surgical instruments, and other resources for traveling. Once the trip has begun, keep up to date on its happenings via the organization's new official site and blog.
Donate to the Emory Haiti Alliance
The costs associated with these trips are significant, and include such overhead as medical supplies and team members' airfare. Private and corporate generosity can do much to reduce the impact of these expenses on team members while fueling the trips' successes. By giving, you can become an integral part of this educational and humanitarian effort and contribute to Emory's ongoing mission to help define the future of healthcare in this country and abroad.
There are several ways to donate:
The fastest and most cost-effective option is to use the Emory Online Giving page. Please choose "other" under "gift designations" and write "surgery education medical missions – Haiti" in the Special Designation box before completing the transaction. The gift processing team will have this information when the card is processed, and gifts will be routed to the correct location, often in less time than it takes to process a check.
Donations can also be made using check, money order, electronic funds transfer, or by giving appreciated stock or other real property. You can also invest in the program with a bequest or life income gift, which can provide for you and your family, create tax benefits, and leave an important legacy for this nexus of Emory's educational and international efforts.
Gifts can be mailed to the Office of Gift Records, 1762 Clifton Road NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30322. Please make checks payable to Emory University and note the Emory Haiti Alliance with your gift.
For any additional information or assistance in making your gift, please contact Susan House, senior director of development, Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404.727.9110.
To donate any surgical instruments and/or medical supplies, including gloves, gauze, bandages, masks, shoe covers, gowns, sutures, needles and syringes, etc., please contact Elizabeth Carpenter at email@example.com, or Krystyna Rastorguieva at firstname.lastname@example.org.