Four first-year M.D. students from the UCF College of Medicine traveled to Haiti over spring break to help provide medical care to residents of the island nation devastated by a January 12 earthquake.
Students Rose Dupont, Bryant Lambe, Lynn McGrath and Brittany Moscato spent a week in Haiti and dispensed drugs at a hospital pharmacy, handled patient logistics, organized blood donations, helped with surgeries and treatment of sick, injured and dying patients.
They assisted doctors at a hospital run by the University of Miami’s Project Medishare. The hospital, on the grounds of the Port-Au-Prince Airport, had surgical, medical, isolation and intensive care units inside tents.
The students worked with Dr. Jonathan Colasanti, a resident at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, who served as Chief Medical Officer at Project Medishare Hospital. Dr. Colasanti wrote Dean Deborah German last week praising the students’ efforts. “I imagine you are well aware of the special young people you have in your inaugural class,” he wrote, “but I wanted to reiterate it. They were full of zeal and energy, ready to be put to work with whatever needed to be done…” Dr. Colasanti noted that Lynn and Brittany helped implement new training and communication protocols that continue to be carried out at the hospital, “an impressive feat for a first year medical student.”
The students’ first duties were coordinating logistics for obtaining blood supplies, arranging transport of seriously injured patients to the U.S. for treatment and handling family and burial arrangements for the dead. Bryant and Rose served as pharmacists, using the medical school training they had just received weeks before and Epocrates, a drug database with over 3,300 medications they had downloaded on their iPhones. When doctors at the hospital realized the extent of the students’ training, they “plucked us out of logistics” and into patient care, Lynn said.
Brittany participated in a surgery to heal a patient’s lacerated liver and inserted a catheter into a baby with a severely distended abdomen. Lynn helped surgically remove debris from the head of a 1-year-old baby who had been trapped under fallen wood after the earthquake. Rose cared for a 23-year-old woman who was dying from tuberculosis. Rose, who was born in Haiti and speaks fluent Creole, consoled the woman’s father, who said he had buried eight of his children in just the past few years. “He was crying, ‘Why me? Why me?’ ” Rose said. ” ‘When are my children going to bury me?’ ” Bryant spent a great deal of time caring for premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. There, he learned to “kangaroo” the tiny infants, a practice where doctors and nurses wrap the baby tightly to their bodies to provide warmth, security and nurturing.
The students talked about their experiences during a PowerPoint presentation Monday and noted that when the opportunity in Haiti became available, 11 of the charter class’s 41 students volunteered to go. But the program was ultimately only able to take four. “It’s pretty amazing,” Lynn said, “that over one-quarter of the class wanted to go down to Haiti for spring break.”