Haiti: After the Earthquake

Five days after the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, second year resident, Chris Vanderwarker, boarded a plane heading to Boston. His schedule had been cleared and he was set to join other relief workers in Haiti. However, when he arrived at the Partners in Health headquarters, it became abundantly clear that the relief efforts were in serious disarray. There was no functional communication with the Haitian government or their people. Text messaging was being used, but that was poor at best.

Chris realized that the Haitian people were in immediate need of surgeons rather than additional medical doctors. This, coupled with the fact that he is still a resident in training and hasn’t done this kind of work before, made him realize he could offer far more assistance by organizing the relief effort from the United States. The logistical issues were a critical need and since Chris’ training includes a master in business administration, his organizational expertise would be better suited for mobilizing volunteers, supplies, and determining what items needed to be purchased out of the donations that were pouring into PIH.

Founded in 1987, Partners in Health already had the infrastructure in place so they were well suited to take care of the medical needs of the Haitian people. During their existence, PIH has helped about 1.2 million people; this number would increase by 400-500,000 for ongoing medical care.

Chris worked in Boston for a month while he was scheduled for an away rotation. Not only was his work for PIH in support of the Haitian people invaluable, it became a defining time for him. He realizes now that he would like to go into a leadership role after residency as he recognizes that is where his strength really lies.

We are extremely proud of the work that Chris did and the sacrifice it was for his pregnant, intern wife and their young daughter while he was away.

Chris credits his wife for holding everything together, and to Ken Steinberg (program director) and Kelli Corning (assistant program director) for giving him the opportunity and clearing his schedule.

If you are interested in finding out more information about Partners in Health, go to: www.pih.org or www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti to learn about their ongoing efforts to assist the Haitian people.