Yale University School of Nursing (YSN) student Vic Tolentino '10 recently returned from a medical mission to Haiti to treat those affected by the January 12 earthquake. Tolentino's group cared for people in one of the most devastated areas of the region. The group also included David M. Walker, MD, an attending physician in the pediatric emergency department at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical instructor at YSN.
The group flew into Port-au-Prince, sponsored by the Haitian Consulate of New York. Tolentino joined the efforts of the United Haitian American Society of Norwalk, and Haitian-American Episcopalian priest, Jean Elie-Millien. Millien and his family opened the clinic a week after the earthquake.
Tolentino shared some of his experiences:
We worked in Carrefour, west of Port-au-Prince, in a makeshift clinic set up in a nightclub. We saw close to 200 patients every day, whose complaints ranged from crush injuries and wounds, to respiratory illnesses following exposure to environmental irritants from collapsed buildings. Many patients showed signs of psychological trauma. Others presented with infectious diseases due to overcrowding and poor hygiene. Many patients suffered from untreated chronic conditions from a general lack of access to primary care.
Haiti's health infrastructure was fragile before the earthquake; now things are much worse. Hospitals were destroyed. Haiti's main schools of nursing and medicine, the only midwifery school and the Ministry of Public Health were flattened in the quake.
Faculty, health professional students and Haitian health care workers lost their lives, raising many implications for the future of healthcare in the country. Healthcare exists in pockets, is fragmented, and only extremely limited follow-up care is available.
Tolentino plans to support rebuilding efforts, and continues to be involved with the United Haitian American Society of Norwalk.