Minnesota Physician April 2013

Page 26


Making a difference in Recognizing Minnesota’s volunteer physicians Each year, Minnesota Physician Publishing honors physicians who have volunteered medical services in recent years. Through volunteer medical activities that span the globe, Minnesota’s volunteer physicians have provided medical care and medical education while expanding crosscultural skills and understanding. Their compassion, commitment, and generosity reflect deeply held values of Minnesota’s medical community. By Scott Wooldridge Assistant editor, Minnesota Physician Publishing



Blogging from the epicenter considered a large hospital, with approximately 70 beds. Yoon notes that the hospital has a number of issues that would give U.S. physicians pause but which are not unusual for a Haitian facility. These include power shortages, sanitation issues, and a staff that is overworked and underpaid. Since his first trip in July 2010, Yoon has collaborated with Tom Slater, a surgical technician from HCMC who also participated in the Haiti mission trips, to blog about the team’s experience of providing health care in Haiti after the earthquake. The blog provides remarkable insights into the experiences of the American health care workers. Providers write about looking out over tent cities of injured Haitians and their families, choking on air thick with smoke from trash fires, or hunkering down to weather out hurricanes that further complicate their efforts to deliver health care. The topics can be relatively lighthearted as well, such as when the bloggers note the temporary loss of Internet service because the hospital didn’t pay its bill, or compare notes on local food, or write of enjoying their trips to local orphanages. (“Every Haitian kid I see is the absolute cutest kid ever ... until I see the next one,” one provider writes.) “It’s a way to process what we’ve been through,” Yoon says of the blog. “A lot of Our team resting at night after a long day in the OR. times you have very strong emotions that can country’s severe poverty have combined to cre- occur with all the stress of working 17-, 18hour days under what can be sometimes very ate ongoing demand for volunteer health care hectic conditions. It’s a way to digest it and I experts such as the HCMC providers. guess vent in a way so that you don’t keep it “There’s absolutely a need,” Yoon says. all bottled up inside. There are oftentimes “There’s been a shift from taking care of the emotional moments where there are patients acute injuries from the quake to taking care of you can’t save or who’ll never walk again. It’s a some of the long-term sequelae and complicaway to process all that and deal tions of injuries, for example, with it in our own way.” nonhealing bones and chronic Yoon says the blog, which infections.” often features photographs of HCMC providers have been providers and patients alike, has traveling to Haiti about twice a drawn a following back home in year, Yoon says, working primarMinnesota, including followers ily out of Hospital Adventiste on Facebook. “It’s somewhat d’Haiti, in the town of Carrefour. educational to let them know On his trip in March 2012, Yoon how bad people have it down says his team saw a mix of condithere in a country that’s really tions, including chronic infections not very far away at all,” he says. due to injuries from the quake, “There are congenital deformities in chilpatients you can’t “We try to not just treat patients as numbers, but [also show] dren, and acute broken bones, save or who’ll faces to put with the names and which he notes is a common problem in a city with many never walk again.” show that these are human beings, no better than you or roads that are still in bad shape. Patrick Yoon, MD me, just the same as us, that The Adventist hospital is have had horrible things happen located 20 miles outside Haiti’s to them and need help.” capital of Port-au-Prince, and is “On Wednesday night there was a magnitude 4.5 earthquake. We only felt it as a slight vibration where we were, but it very understandably caused a lot of concern.” So goes an entry in the blog “Project Ortho: From Hennepin to Haiti,” which chronicles the work of Patrick Yoon, MD, and other providers from Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) as they provide health care services in Haiti. Orthopedists from HCMC have been traveling to Haiti on a regular basis since a January 2010 earthquake devastated that country. The severity of that earthquake, its effect on Haiti’s infrastructure and economy, and the