This is what one of our 3rd year students, Lisa Altieri, wrote about our most 2014 Haiti trip.
Thanks to this trip, I now see why it's so rewarding to have continuity of care. I'm interested in dermatology, and Dr. Partovi remembered this and was sure to call me over whenever she encountered a patient with a dermatology problem. Several months ago, a 50 year old man named Jackson was in a car accident, and a great portion of the skin from his lower left leg was torn off. The wound healed nicely, except for a quarter-sized area that wouldn't heal. It was yellow, crusted over, and painful. Furthermore, Jackson didn't have access to a doctor who could tell him how to properly change the bandages on his wound, or the money to buy the proper bandages.
Dr. Partovi showed another student and myself how to change the dressing on his wound. Jackson came back day after day to get the dressings on his wound changed. It was rewarding to see him every day of the four days we were there. Thanks to Dr. P's guidance, I knew exactly what to do in order to help this person. I was doing something I loved, dealing with a subject which I am scientifically fascinated by, and helping someone feel better as a result. And I knew that if I did my job, Jackson would feel better. I know this sounds simple, but I believe that this type of encounter is at the heart of why we all go into medicine in the first place. At the end, I taught him how to change the bandages by himself, and we gave him as many free bandaging supplies as we had.
While we didn't have advanced diagnostic techniques on this trip, and often felt bad for not being able to give as much medication as we wanted to give, every little bit helps. If it weren't for our grassroots group of students and doctors making little bits of change, people like Jackson otherwise wouldn't be able to receive care. Please support our group so that we can continue doing what we love to do.
Melanie, a third year medical student from our 2014 trip
As a third year medical student, it is rare to feel useful. Although your brain is bubbling over with knowledge, the learning curve is steep. Additionally, patients rarely come as a blank slate. An attending physician or a resident has likely already evaluated the patient and given their diagnosis. It is rare that the student is able to examine a patient, figure out what diagnoses are most likely, and administer the proper treatment. The Haiti Medical Voyage, founded and led by Dr. Partovi, was a powerful experience which allowed us students to really become proactive in thinking about and medically managing a patient from beginning to end. With Dr. Partovi's guidance and the help of Haitian translators, I felt both connected to the patients and like I was really taking care of them. A very vivid example of this that stands out in my memory is a young woman who came to the gynecology clinic with complaints of lower abdominal discomfort and pain during sex. I was able to take a good history and perform a pelvic exam. Upon examination, I could apply what I had learned and read about in medical school to come up with the most likely cause for this woman's illness. She had an infection that could cost her her fertility--a devastating thing for such a young patient. We ran the appropriate tests and gave her medications that would cure her. Had we not been there, this patient could have had serious complications down the line which were preventable with simple antibiotics.
The Haiti Medical Voyage is such an invaluable opportunity and experience. It is designed to help the local Haitian community as well as to nourish a passion for service in each of the students. This trip has certainly planted a seed in my heart for poverty medicine. I hope to continue serving needy communities long into the future.