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2018 COMMUNITY CAREGIVERS

Miguel E. Fiol, MD Recognizing Minnesota’s Volunteer Physicians By Lisa McGowan

Each year, Minnesota Physician Publishing recognizes physicians and health care providers who have volunteered their medical services. Whether volunteering at home or overseas, these caregivers help people in need and come away with a revitalized sense of their work. Their compassion, commitment, and generous spirit reflect the deeply held values in Minnesota’s medical community.

University of Minnesota Medical School

W

ith Hurricane Maria heading toward Puerto Rico, Dr. Miguel Fiol, who was vacationing in San Juan with his wife Marta, decided to tough it out and help with the hurricane relief. When it was safe to venture out, he volunteered his medical services at the largest shelter in San Juan. The devastation was unbelievable, said Fiol: “It looked like after the atomic bomb was dropped.” Hospitals could not offer services so all emergencies had to be handled in the shelter. Fiol had to return sooner than expected to Minnesota, but he, along with the University of Minnesota Foundation and “El Fondo Boricua” of the St. Paul Foundation, put together a medical/nursing team to return. The team consisted of Eileen Crespo, MD, (Hennepin County Medical Center); Ruben Crespo-Diaz, PhD, MD, (U of M Internal Medicine Fellowship Program); Eduardo Medina, MD, (Park Nicollet); Serge PierreCharles, MD; and Carla Vélez Rivera, RN, (Fairview Southdale Hospital) (photo left to right: Medina, PierreCharles, Crespo, Vélez Rivera, and Fiol).

Our most important contribution was psychological support to the embattled people of Puerto Rico. Crespo-Diaz was instrumental in securing and shipping 300 pounds of medical supplies needed for the trip. Fiol, a neurologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and the team went at the end of October and spent a week seeing patients and traveling extensively to the mountain towns of Canóvanas, Lajas, Naranjito, and Morovis. They set up pop-up clinics where they provided primary care consultations and did home visits. “The stress and trauma was painful to experience,” said Vélez Rivera. People were physically and emotionally exhausted from the daily tasks of maintaining sanitary conditions with little water, buying groceries every day, or waiting in line for gas or cash. Despite this, people did a remarkable job of caring for bedridden or sick family members. After their return, the team remained involved by working with the “Coalition of Puerto Ricans,” a group providing help to 100 families who are resettling in Minnesota. Aside from primary care, communities in Puerto Rico need mental health support. Fiol’s team is concerned with the rising suicide rate in Puerto Rico, and they are working with island physicians to assist with suicide prevention programs there. According to Fiol, “Our most important contribution was psychological support to the embattled people of Puerto Rico. It meant the world to them that we cared and came to help. The work in Puerto Rico continues to be a challenge, but Minnesotans have shown extraordinary support for all efforts to assist in this terrible disaster.”

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MARCH 2018 MINNESOTA PHYSICIAN

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