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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Lauds Miller School Doctors Who Continue to Treat Haitian Earthquake Patients

1/15/2010

The Miller School’s medical relief effort for survivors of the Haitian earthquake continues to grow both here and in the ravaged country. About 100 doctors, nurses and other personnel have made their way with supplies and equipment to a field hospital at the Port-au-Prince airport.

At the same time, about two dozen injured quake survivors airlifted to Miami have been treated at the Ryder Trauma Center at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. The numbers are likely to grow as rescuers bring some semblance of order to the chaos and desperation that has descended on Haiti since Tuesday’s 7.0 earthquake leveled much of the capital and surrounding areas.

“We continue to coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to prepare for the arrival of additional patients,’’ said Nicholas Namias, M.D., senior trauma surgeon and director of the UM/Jackson Memorial Burn Center.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, visiting some of Jackson’s quake survivors Thursday, called on all of Florida’s children’s hospitals to help the youngest victims. He said the Ryder Center’s expertise, coupled with its proximity to Haiti and affiliation with Holtz Children’s Hospital, will make it a primary center for rendering assistance.

Lauding Americans for their quick generosity to the relief effort, Nelson singled out the Miller School for having the first medical team on the ground in Haiti. Led by Barth Green, M.D., professor and chairman of neurological surgery and co-founder of Project Medishare, the team was treating the critically wounded within five minutes of landing at the devastated Port-au-Prince airport Wednesday afternoon.

William O’Neill, M.D., executive dean for clinical affairs, joined the team Thursday to assess the situation and assist in the effort.

The generosity Nelson spoke of was on full display Friday, when Ellen Moceri, head of Ransom Everglades School, and her students gave Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., a check for $29,340.28. Her students raised the sum after selecting the University’s Global Institute for Community Health and Development for its fundraising efforts. The institute is helping spearhead the relief effort, and by Friday morning had amassed a list of more than 300 Miller School personnel volunteering to assist in Haiti.

The Dean expressed his gratitude to the students for their hard work and generosity, saying their caring nature exemplified the community at large.

The Haiti Task Force, consisting of senior faculty and members of the health system leadership, continues to meet daily to coordinate the volunteer and relief effort, and plan for the prolonged mission that will be required throughout what will undoubtedly be Haiti’s agonizingly long and slow recovery.

Even before the quake struck, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere suffered from extensive health care shortages and gaps, which Project Medishare and other programs had been working arduously to close.

Many of the wounded suffered crushing injuries from collapsing buildings and surgeons here and at the airport field hospital are treating fractures and traumatic brain injuries and performing many amputations.

“Many of the patients coming in early on showed signs of muscle breakdown and damage to the kidneys from lack of access to immediate medical care,’’ Namias said.

Among the injured recovering at Holtz Children’s Hospital was Karim Apollon, a 7-year-old U.S. citizen who suffered a fractured skull, injured jaw and respiratory problems from an injured lung. Sen. Nelson visited the boy Friday while the youngster was busy watching Alvin and the Chipmunks under the watchful eye of his relieved parents. His mother, Tania Apollon, expressed her gratitude to Green, who helped the boy and his family get to Miami. She called Green “a savior.’’

Namias said most of the quake survivors he’s seen are amazingly upbeat.

“They’re doing remarkably well,’’ Namias said. “Mentally, they are very positive. I think they are all glad to be alive, and out of Haiti.’’