Haiti receives humanitarian aid from Barry alumni, professors
Apr 15, 2010
Miami Shores, Fla. - Several Barry University alumni, professors and resident doctors have taken missionary trips to Haiti to assist with relief efforts after the catastrophic earthquake shook Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12. With more than a million Haitians left homeless and death toll above the 200,000 mark, the need for medical assistance as well as basic necessities like food and water is crucial.
Brian A. Peterkin and Kyle Horner, both 2007 alumni of Barry’s Physician Assistant program spent three days helping the people of Haiti, who are still trying to find permanent housing.
“What I discovered in Haiti was an earthquake ravaged nation full of beautiful, stoic people who were looking for guidance and medical relief during this time of terrible devastation,” said Peterkin, a licensed physician assistant in orthopedic spine surgery.
Peterkin joined several medical practitioners, dental professionals, architects and engineers to help in the mission of assisting earthquake victims with basic medical and wound care. Through a small nonprofit group called “Love-for-Haiti” they also began work to help rebuild the foundations of the damaged country.
“The [group] is unique because they develop the funds for their medical missions in Haiti from the individuals who participate as well as the leaders of the non-profit,” said Peterkin of the organization.
During his medical mission, Peterkin began his work doing everything from wound care to fitting people with new eye glasses who lost their glasses during the quake.
“I was really able to comprehend the complete devastation of the capital city of Haiti and the quality of life the people had while [still] trying to strive ahead in wake of the earthquake’s destruction,” said Peterkin. “But this is why I went into medicine.”
In a letter to is professor, Dr. Richard Fien at Barry he described how he had to make splints from limited resources like “malleable metals with cast padding” and ace wraps, or how he had to treat infections both internal and superficial without confirmation or laboratory analysis but instead by using history, physical exam findings and knowing the epidemiology of the country.
Peterkin continued by saying, “I could not [have] performed at the level at which I did without the core knowledge and clinical skills I learned while being a Barry University, PA student.”
Three more recent graduates of Barry’s Anesthesiology Department also made their way to Haiti to assist victims left wounded by the magnitude-7 earthquake. Alumni Elizandra Pierre, Stephano Clermont and Lucette Jean-Baptiste, all certified registered nurse anesthetists, (CRNAs) selflessly gave of their time during the first initial days of the quake. Pierre and Clermont graduated from Barry in May of 2009 while Jean-Baptiste is a 2006 graduate.
“One week there puts your life in perspective and makes you humble and appreciative of everything you have; the basic necessities we take for granted," said Pierre. “I think it made me a better anesthetist and more in tune.”
In order to help victims with lower leg fractures, or loss of the lower extremity, professors of Barry’s School of Podiatric Medicine have also taken trips to Haiti. Dr. Thomas Merrill, Dr. Charles Southerland and Dr. Jacqueline Brill provided their expertise in podiatric reconstructive surgery and wound care to dozens of Haitians during their trips. With them were a group of Barry resident doctors from Mercy Hospital; Mario Cala, Zia Mustafa and Victor Herrera and Dr. Sandra Garcia-Ortiz from Mount Sinai Medical Center - all doctors of podiatric medicine – who made the jaunt in order to help with what is considered the vast majority of trauma.
“There is a huge need for proper care of the lower extremities,” said Brill. “Because podiatrists can do about 90 percent of lower ankle surgeries without anesthesiology, their presence is vital for people who have not lost entire limbs.”