West Tennessee Haiti Partnership

“So. I’m in Port au Prince” – Shruti’s Reflection pt. 1

So. I’m in Port au Prince, Haiti.

Two weeks ago UTCOM’s Dean of Students sent an email about a clinical opportunity in Haiti. I typically delete any email I receive through my UT account, but for some reason I decided to open this one. A UT faculty member, Dr. Susan Nelson, runs an organization known as the West Tennessee Haiti Partnership. A trip leaving after Thanksgiving had two people drop out, so Dr. Nelson had an email sent out among the med students to see if anyone could join the trip last minute. The dates of the trip were November 28th-December 4th. The last interview of my November tour was November 26th. My next trip wasn’t until December 6th. I immediately emailed Dr. Nelson and after a phone conversation with her (and my anxious mum in India), my trip to Haiti was set.

I’d like to share some inspirational story about how I’ve been “moved” to go to Haiti since I read “Mountains Beyond Mountains” or after having met Paul Farmer or even after seeing the news reports about the devastation in the country after the earthquake in January 2010, but the truth is that my “why” was more like a “why not”? I really enjoy working with underserved patients, I love traveling, and “fourth year glory” has made me miss being “clinically active”. An opportunity presented itself, and I went for it.

There are eleven of us here. You know that I’m terrible at telling stories, but I’m going to do my best to describe the group to you so you can better appreciate its dynamics.

  • Dr. Susan Nelson: “The Doc”. She’s actually my PCP and a family medicine physician at Harbortown in Memphis. She’s been coming to Haiti for five years and this trip is her tenth visit. She is an excellent clinician, sharp, and has a great sense of humor.
  • Jenn: “The PT lady”. She’s English and fierce and actually gets more irritated than me when witnessing inefficiency, laziness or wastefulness. Clearly, I like her.
  • Brandy: “The Nurse”. She likes Memphis basketball and is easy going and fun. We’re going to be friends.
  • John: “The retired paramedic/Mercedes salesman”. I actually really like this guy. He’s straightforward and honest.
  • Keisha: “The Pharmacist”. She is quiet and just got married two weeks ago. I’ll need to get to know her better.
  • Sherye: “The Sign Language Interpreter”. She is kind of the grandmother of the group.
  • Adam and Stephen: “The Nelson Brothers”. These two are Dr. Nelson’s sons. Adam signs (many of the children at St. Vincent’s are deaf) and plays guitar for the kids. Stephen is the official West Tennessee Haiti Partnership photographer. 
  • Robbie and Andrew: Robbie is a year out of college and working at the Methodist ER while trying to get into med school. Andrew is still in school at the University of Memphis and also wants to go to med school (some day). These two are little brothers.  I’ll talk about how working with them and teaching them the physical exam has actually enriched my experience here so far. They’re also huge Grizzlies fans and make sure that we don’t miss games while here.

That’s all for now!

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