February 28, 2010–A team of US doctors trained at Cuba’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM) returned home today after serving a month alongside colleagues from Haiti, Cuba, Honduras and elsewhere in the Cuban field hospital at Croix des Bouquets east of Port-au-Prince. The seven women—five New Yorkers and two Californians—belonged to the Henry Reeve Emergency Medical Contingent, a specially trained disaster response team established by Cuba.
“It was awesome doing what we always dreamed of doing and putting what we were taught to the test. I really don’t want to go,” said Dr. Melissa Mitchell. The young physicians typically worked eight hours day seeing patients with a variety of pathologies including typhoid, malaria, diarrheal illnesses and respiratory infections in the field hospital that sees an average of 500 patients daily. “People start lining up at 4:30 in the morning and are incredibly gracious,” said Dr Mitchell.
One US medical student from ELAM, Joanna Mae Souers, is staying in Croix des Bouquets to continue disease prevention efforts with Haitian and other students working in teams headed by ELAM graduates and Cuban doctors.
The Henry Reeve Contingent currently staffs five field hospitals and more than three dozen health installations throughout Haiti including health centers, community hospitals, rehabilitation centers and reference hospitals. The aim is to assist Haiti long-term in building a public health infrastructure to meet the needs of the country’s population.
The Contingent’s Cuban volunteers began arriving in Haiti on February 13, adding to some 370 Cuban doctors already staffing health care facilities across Haiti. Since then, they have been reinforced by ELAM graduates from 23 countries; this is the first time international doctors have joined Cubans in the Contingent that has served in Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan, China and elsewhere.
Conner Gorry, Senior Editor of MEDICC Review, is on assignment in Haiti since February 27.
Read more about US doctors in Haiti at www.medicc.org