HAITI Shelly Chvotzkin, DO ’02
n one of the many medical aid trips that Dr. Chvotzkin has made to Haiti, a seven months’ pregnant woman came to see her at the Haiti Clinic, where Dr. Chvotzkin volunteers. The Haitian woman reported she did not feel well. Then, to the surprise of Dr. Chvotzkin, an obstetrician-gynecologist at HealthPark Medical Center in Fort Myers, Florida, the woman suddenly suffered a seizure and became unresponsive. Because the clinic, then located in Cité Soleil near Port-auPrince, is not equipped to treat such emergencies, she accompanied the expectant mother to the local hospital. As they drove through dangerous, gang-ridden slums, Dr. Chvotzkin feared more for her patient’s life than her own safety. “It was scary,” she recalls. “I’m not sure what would have happened if she hadn’t come to the clinic.”
by Kathleen Louden
with her newborn infant to say thank you to “Baby Doc,” as the Haitians call her.
Making a difference
Success stories like these are why Dr. Chvotzkin says she uses all her vacation time to travel to the poor Caribbean country every other month, recently making her 24th trip. “It is very rewarding. You feel like you can make a difference,” she says. Photos of a beaming Dr. Chvotzkin with her Haitian patients show her joy in being there. The Philadelphia native explains her dedication to this often difficult work: “Sometimes the doctor-patient relationship gets lost in the United States. In Haiti, you don’t have to worry about relative value units or making a quota. It’s getting back to the humanity of medicine. You realize what’s important and what’s not.”
Dr. Chvotzkin suspected hypoglycemia and encouraged the hospital staff to test the patient’s blood glucose. Indeed, the woman’s glucose level was dangerously low, and she received lifesaving treatment.
About 40 percent of Haiti’s population, or more than 3.5 million people, are without medical care because of poverty and lack of access, according to the Pan American Health Organization. UNICEF reports that Haiti has the highest rates of infant and maternal mortality in the Western hemisphere.
Several months later, on another trip to the Haiti Clinic, Dr. Chvotzkin saw the woman again. The patient returned
People who cannot afford medical care can be seen at the Haiti Clinic for less than $1, according to Dr. Chvotzkin.
PHILADELPHIA COLLEGE OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE