ELAM Students & Graduates Work with Cuban Doctors in Haiti


I requested a year off from school to go to Haiti and work with the Cuban doctors after completing my 2nd semester of 3rd year at ELAM (the Latin American School of Medicine). I am one of 120 American citizens studying medicine in Cuba free of charge, with plans to practice medicine upon graduation in underserved communities of the United States and around the world.

When I arrived, I found several international ELAM graduates (http://elamedicosinternacionalistas.wordpress.com), including 7 United States graduates (http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/cuban-trained-us-docs-complete-haiti-mission), and a number of Haitian medical students working alongside the Cuban doctors. We were stationed at a field hospital set up by the Henry Reeve Brigade of Cuban doctors on January 28th in a small central park of Croix des Bouquet, just outside Puerto Prince. Together we served displaced earthquake victims and patients suffering from inadequate health care services.

In the first six months the hospital was established, we addressed the needs of more than 70,312 patients; 53,588 at the hospital and 16,723 in the field. We performed a total of 2,506 operations on-site, with 786 major surgeries; including emergency caesarean sections, ectopic pregnancies, thyroidectomy, hernias, hydroceles, hysterectomies of uterine fibroids, orthopedic surgeries and more. We assisted 116 natural births. We diagnosed 3,533 patients with our on-site laboratory and diagnostics center. We saw 3,192 patients for x-rays and ultrasounds. We treated 8,778 patients with physical therapy, and we hospitalized 2,053 patients on-site (Information provided by the Henry Reeve Brigade of Croix des Bouquet Statistical Report, June 2010).

When you stepped out of the hospitals and into the streets the only question that came to mind had to be, “where is the aid?” It was obvious, even six months after the earthquake that little progress had been made, with little to no evidence of monetary support. Hundreds of thousands of people were still living displaced in make-shift tent cities. The city still resembled a disaster zone with buildings teetering above cracked foundations, while corpses remain beneath the rubble. The doctors seemed to be the only relief effort making a difference.

The Cuban doctors were accomplishing more than what the international community was willing to recognize. Croix des Bouquet was just one of several field hospitals established by the Henry Reeve Brigade to serve communities in and around Puerto Prince free of charge. CNN even had to apologize after interviewing one of the Cuban doctors and crediting him as Spaniard. Fortunately, Cuban doctors aren’t looking for recognition; they are out to save lives and continue to do so all over the world.

The Henry Reeve Brigade has since moved on to other emergencies, like the fires plaguing Russia. Other Cuban doctors have replaced them to continue serving the Haitian community free of charge. Brazil and Cuba have signed a trilateral accord with the Haitian Health Minister to establish three hospitals staffed by Cuban doctors located in communities surrounding Puerto Prince where health services are limited to non-existent. Cuba has been dedicated to sending doctors to Haiti for 11 years. Amidst the unfortunate circumstances of the earthquake, they continue to fulfill their commitment to the Haitian community by sending doctors. With the success of the students working alongside the doctors, they now have plans to send more students in the years to come.

Note: Article written by Joanna Mae Souers. Photograph titled, “Joanna Mae Souers on Wound Care” was taken by Cuban photographer, Juvenal Balán. The other photographs were taken by Joanna Mae Souers.

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2 Responses to “ELAM Students & Graduates Work with Cuban Doctors in Haiti”

  1. […] Recipes A-Z : ELAM Students & Graduates Work with Cuban Doctors in Haiti […]

  2. […] the temblor struck, and they’re still there today, was there now, as  Joanna Mae Souers reports for the The Social Medicine Portal of the Department of Family and Social Medicine at the Albert […]

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