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American Academy of Ophthalmology
Dispatch from Haiti: Report on the Task Force's First Visit
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Michael W. Brennan, MD, 2009 Academy President | Alamance Eye Center
Former Academy president Michael W. Brennan, MD, is currently in Haiti coordinating efforts among the various volunteer medical providers and representing the Academy’s relief efforts. To date he has met with military representatives and USAID as well as 26 specialty society leaders. He has also met with eight eye M.D.s for an assessment of specific needs/connections.

Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010

-message from Dr. Brennan -

Dr. Michael Brennan en route to assist in the Haiti Recovery Efforts
Dr. Brennan (center) with Kathleen Casey,
MD, from the American College of Surgeons,
and Italo Subbarao from the AMA.

As a representative of the Academy and the Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology (PAAO), I have had the opportunity and privilege to lead an AMA-American College of Surgeons (ACS) team to experience the Haiti disaster, principally for organizational engagement with our Haitian physicians. Accompanying me are colleagues Italo Subbarao, MD, representing the AMA Disaster Response initiative, and Kathleen Casey, MD, representing the ACS: Operation Giving Back.

The scene has been portrayed graphically and tragically. The images of the palace and main cathedral – with the remnants standing defiant amidst the rubble – will be indelibly imprinted in my memory. The Haitian people are equally resilient. Street markets abound and the eerie evening darkness is punctuated with both candle light and the glow of computer screens. It truly sparks a commitment to respond.

Our objectives are to ascertain the correct timing and match for assistance with material and manpower resources. The quoted “over-response” of doctors on the scene is incorrect in that many specialties are underserved as there is acute care and chronic illness overload.

Our meeting with 26 Haitian specialty society leaders, hosted by the Haitian Medical Association on Feb. 6, was a perfect start to personal, professional relations, and to understand their intermediate and long term organizational needs as well as prioritization of response. After today’s meeting with military medicine and USAID we’ll be able to offer definitive projections for volunteer needs, subspecialty and timing. We’ll remain in close connection with our specialty leaders to accent organizational impact of collaboration and equity.

We have enjoyed the sponsorship of the International Medical Corps (IMC), a multidimensional non-governmental organization that like many others provides a remarkable interface and boundless energy. Haiti has more NGOs per capita than any other country. The IMC coordinated travel to include a helicopter flight from Santo Domingo to Port au Prince provided by a generous Dominican Republic benefactor – an example of Pan Americanism.

The IMC oversees the University Hospital, the emergency facility in the most acute care environment. They staff a variety of medical and surgical services and are ably supplemented by Haitian physicians, including our ophthalmology friends, who have recovered rapidly and are definitely back in action. We sensed this spirit in our meeting with their leaders.

Our colleagues cheered loudly when I quoted President Clinton, “man anpil chay pa lou.” Many hands lighten the load. Donate to the Academy Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. Register to volunteer. Join the Academy and PAAO’s collaborative efforts and help us lighten the load.

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