Carla Haack Provides Medical Care on Volunteer Trip to Puerto Rico

October 2017

Emory general and GI surgeon Carla Haack, MD, is naturally drawn to helping those who don't have easy access to clinical and surgical care (she was named a Grady Memorial Hospital Healthcare Hero by the Grady Health Foundation when she was an Emory chief resident, and has made several trips to Haiti with the Emory Haiti Alliance to provide free surgical care since she joined our faculty), but she also had a personal connection to journeying to Puerto Rico following the recent hurricane that devastated the island: many members of her family still live there.

"I don't think I can describe the agony of not hearing if my family was alive or dead," she says. "I learned that they're OK, and I was lucky enough to see them briefly when I wasn't working."

Dr. Haack went to Puerto Rico to provide medical services to hurricane survivors with a team assembled in Florida that included family medicine physician Gretchen San Miguel, MD, and wound care specialist Penny Agenbroad, RN, of Florida Hospital Medical Group; private practice physical medicine and rehabilitation physician Ricardo Vasquez-Duarte, MD; and Lake County Sheriff's Office SWAT team members Rob Sellers and Pablo Rivera.

"Some areas hadn't seen any help before we got there 22 days after the storm," says Dr. Haack. "We provided medical attention to about 350 patients, and brought food, water purification systems, medications, mosquito repellent and netting, and solar lamps. Diagnoses included trauma, primary care (lots of diabetes and hypertension), infections related to floodwater, pulmonary problems related to mold in flooded homes, ENT, multiple sclerosis, autism, and, unfortunately, a fair share of suicidal ideation. The problems are very real, and they are not likely to have a quick or easy solution. The spirit of most people was undaunted and beyond awe-inspiring."

The team flew to Puerto Rico with the help of high-profile Florida attorney John Morgan on October 8, and took 2,000 pounds of supplies to help those in remote areas of the island. They returned on October 14th.