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Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Returns from Haiti Inspired by Miller School Efforts and the Courage of the Haitian People

1/19/2010

Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., returned to Miami from the capital of Haiti Monday evening deeply moved by the efforts of the Miller School force, more than 100 strong, which continues to work tirelessly to save survivors of the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake.

"I am so impressed by the work of Barth Green and his team. In no time, the Miller School of Medicine, with Project Medishare and the Global Institute, were able to create an urgent care center that was invaluable to the people of Port-au-Prince," the Dean said upon landing at the Opa-locka Executive Airport.

Among the first foreign doctors into Haiti after Tuesday's earthquake, Green, M.D., professor and chair of neurological surgery, is helping coordinate the international medical relief effort. Green, who co-founded Project Medishare with Arthur Fournier, M.D., professor of family medicine and associate dean for community health affairs, after a medical mission to Haiti in 1994, had been working towards building a critical care hospital in Haiti. Now, he is overseeing the new 240-bed field hospital going up on a corner of Port-au-Prince's devastated international airport.

Fashioned from four tents that retired Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning arranged, the makeshift hospital has two operating rooms, sleeping accommodations for 100 medical staff and telemedicine conferencing abilities that will allow UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center doctors to examine and consult on patients hundreds of miles away. It will remain a fixture in Haiti as the medical relief effort evolves from rescue to the long-term recovery of the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who suffered crushing injuries from collapsing buildings.

In just their first 48 hours on the ground, members of the UM team treated and triaged more than 250 survivors, many who endured amputations, and now face the threat of infection and disease from unsanitary conditions.

"I am amazed that the ship brought to Port-au-Prince by the U.S. government is designed to admit 250 patients," the Dean said. "Well, we had 250 patients admitted to our urgent care center. We're doing life-saving surgeries, delivering medications, eliminating pain and suffering, providing antibiotics – all of that with no pretension. There was no hierarchy. Everybody was working together as a team doing whatever needed to be done."

The Dean was equally impressed by the resolve and courage of the Haitian people as they mourn their dead, tend to the living, sift through the rubble and scramble for food, water, shelter and other basic essentials and services.

"You feel guilty to come back to the most amazing country in the world – the United States," the Dean said. "But the people of Haiti are stoic. They are respectful of what we were doing and grateful. They are just so happy we were bringing this opportunity for health and hope for survival. People talk about unrest, but that is the exception not the rule."

Returning with Dean Goldschmidt were John Macdonald, M.D., a longtime voluntary assistant professor of dermatology, and Miller School newcomer Didier De Cannière, both French speakers who were overwhelmed by their experience in Haiti.

"It was a privilege of a lifetime," said Macdonald, a thoracic surgeon who spent five days tending to countless open fractures, chest wounds and lacerations. "If you're a doctor, this is why you became one."

De Cannière, who just left his prominent post as chief of cardiac surgery at the University of Brussels for a surgical post at UM, said he never imagined he'd spend his first days at his new job in Haiti a witness to such horror. He said he treated patients with chest trauma and assisted in 11 limb amputations.

"Entering the medical family at the University of Miami this way will be something I will never forget," De Cannière said. "My colleagues are outstanding and I am really proud to join their team."

As the Miller School turns its efforts to a larger, prolonged commitment to Haiti's recovery, the need for translators, anesthesiologists, surgeons, critical care nurses surgical nurses and specialists in infectious disease, and family and internal medicine remains. Anyone willing and able to go to Haiti to assist, should confer with their supervisor and add their name to the volunteer list by emailing Paulette Richards of The Global Institute for Community Health & Development at prichards@med.miami.edu. Include your name, contact information, skills, language abilities, and the length of time you can volunteer.