Employee Profile – Dr. Jacqueline Gautier

Dr. GautierDr. Jacqueline Gautier has been with St. Damien Pediatric Hospital for many years now and we feel very lucky to have her as Executive Director of the hospital. Her passion for pediatric health care and her determination to tackle some of the most challenging global health problems is inspirational and we are grateful to have her as our fearless leader.

Dr. Gautier graduated from Faculte de Medecine et de Pharmacie in Port au Prince, Haiti in 1981. She spent the next several years specializing in pediatrics at the Hospital de l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti and then completed a one-year fellowship in infectious diseases at Duke Regional Medical Center in the United States. After returning to Haiti, she was chief of the pediatric department at Hospital Albert Schweitzer and then served as a member of the hospitals board for seven years.

After five years of private practice following her time as chief, Dr. Gautier became the first Medical Director at the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in 1993. Fr. Rick Frechette approached her and asked for her expertise to transform the pediatric hospice center to a pediatric hospital for vulnerable families in Haiti. Once the hospital was established, in 2005, Dr. Gautier pioneered the HIV/AIDS department of the hospital, in which the multidisplinary team cared for approximately 500 children receiving ART, the combination of medical therapy for HIV/AIDS patients. This program has continued to develop and grown over the past nine years. Today the HIV/AIDS department serves as the leading program in the country and is often utilized as a training center for physicians from around the country to come and expand their knowledge to improve their programs.

Dr. Gautier became the Executive Director of St. Damien in 2012. Under her leadership, the hospital started a residency program in September 2013 to train new group of pediatricians ready to face the challenge of health care for Haitian children. Her responsibilities are to ensure that the hospital and all of its departments including malnutrition, tuberculosis, neonatology, maternity and oncology ward to the best of its abilities.

Dr. Gautier says, “The challenges are big, however, with a motivated team and continuous support from friends, organizations and other hospitals, St. Damien hopes to strengthen its capacity to care for the children of Haiti.”

With innovative ideas, concrete plans and a big heart, we know Dr. Gautier will continue working towards the mission of St. Damien and bettering the healthcare for each and every one of our patients.

Contributed by Avriel Burlot
Communication Specialist – NPH Haiti

Joceline*—Malnutrition Patient Profile

Joceline, a 2 ½ year old little girl from the south side of Haiti, was recently admitted to St. Damien Pediatric Hospital for malnutrition. Her mother knew about the hospital because other family members have had children treated there before and recommended it. Joceline’s mother brought her to the hospital after her daughter showed symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, swelling, coughing and fever.

Since arriving at St. Damien only three weeks ago, the swelling in her stomach has lessened and many other symptoms have significantly improved. The doctors are optimistic about her treatment and expect her to have a full recovery in the next several weeks. Her mother is more than pleased to see her daughter returning to her playful self and she couldn’t be more grateful for the dedication of St. Damien staff.

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

Meet Mama Meta

mama metaWell that’s just a tongue twister, isn’t it? This week I want you all to meet Mama Meta. She is fabulous. This post is really about her but in the bigger scheme of things, it’s really a testimony to how strong and awesome all the mom’s are that I pass, meet or talk to daily.

I met Mama Meta and Meta in Salon Mango (the Cancer room) quickly after arriving to Haiti and I immediately fell in love with the little guy but his mom welcomed me with open arms before I could even say, “ki jan ou rele?”

Mama Meta started noticing her little man wasn’t himself early last year. He started sleeping more in the day, complaining of pain and x, y, and z additional symptoms. After being referred from doctor to doctor, clinic to clinic and given diagnosis after diagnosis, she ended up at St. Damien when they finally diagnosed him with cancer. That was seven months ago and the two of them haven’t spent a night at home since.

You should know that cancer is difficult to treat and a horrible thing anywhere you are, but in Haiti it is just another obstacle in, for many people, an already challenging situation. Although I’ve never been to Mama Meta’s house, I know it’s not the best place for Meta to be and with Meta getting treatment, having his immune system shot, it’s not worth the risk, that is, if the risk is avoidable. When Meta isn’t getting treatment at St. Damien the two of them stay at the Sister’s of Charity house for sick children. The mothers that live there with their children have to work or help the sisters in anyway they can for a bed at the house. I think it’s a fair trade. Mama Meta responsibilities have really developed into being the local liaison between the cancer room at St. Damien and the Sisters of Charity. She will bring food to other mothers in the same program, make sure everyone has the necessities and come to get updates on the children for the sisters. I’m sure she does about a million and a half other things that we don’t see too but she is always so positive and such a pick-me-up for the mom’s who haven’t left St. Damien for months. It takes a really special person to stay strong not only for her own child and herself but also to give hope to other mom’s in the same difficulties.

On top of that, she has “adopted me” as her petit fi blan m’ (her daughter), as if she needs/wants more responsibility. “How’s work? Did you eat today? How’s your boyfriend (This is typically said with a coy and sneaky smile as she just checks to see if one has magically appeared)? How’s your family?” Genuine. She is straight up genuine. No matter how many people call her mom, she leaves no one behind, no one is neglected and everyone is loved.

Do you know where Mama Meta has been sleeping for seven months? On a yoga mat on the floor and the mat isn’t even a guarantee. I know there have even been several occasions where she offers her mat to a new mom in the room who doesn’t have one. But that isn’t even a concern of hers, a complaint or even a second thought.

This woman has given up everything, fought hard, walked miles to see doctors or buy medicine, worked her tail off and so on and so forth to see her little boy healthy again. Did I mention that her husband and other children are still home? Sure they visit, when the have a little extra money to make the trip, but it’s not a frequent thing. The pair is prepping for their trip to the DR to receive radiation therapy and I am so glad they are reaching the final stages of such a dreadful illness.

Her #1 priority: To see Meta play, laugh and grow up to be s healthy and strong boy young man.

All the mothers, and the few father’s too, in Salon Mango are a portrait of strength, determination, inspiration, hope and unconditional love. You all wouldn’t believe what these people go though to even get blood for a blood transfusion. Mama Meta is just one of the many stories but their stories ground you and make you believe miracles can happen.

Contributed by Avriel Burlot
NPH Haiti Communication Specialist


Meet Christopher

chris1Oh me oh my, what can I say about this incredible little guy?  This week I want you all to meet Christopher.  Christopher is one of our patients in Salon Mango (the cancer room) and someone who I have grown to love over the past few months.

Christopher has leukemia and as if that isn’t a struggle it self, his mom isn’t really in the picture and his dad works and frankly cannot be at the hospital 24/7 because he still has to support his family.  Basically what I’m saying is that Christopher has a level of independence and maturity that I have never seen in another 10-year-old, especially to handle something like cancer.  The St. Damien’s staff has really taken a liking to Christopher too and even though his dad can’t be there all of the time, Christopher knows he has a lot of people who love him and are keeping an eye on him.

Christopher and I have spent a lot of time together, talking, playing, listening to music, you name it. Sometimes though when his chemo really knocks him down all he can do is lay in bed and listen to stories I make up about whatever comes to mind that day.  He just wants someone there, you know? One day we were chatting about Christopher’s future and he told me he wants to be a doctor.  He wants to be a doctor to come up with a medicine that completely cures cancer so other kids don’t have to go through with what he went through.  He was very passionate and lively about this even though he was pretty groggy from his med’s that day.  I was blown away and really just inspired that a child has so much passion for live and so many aspirations at such a young age and I really hope he achieves all he wants and then some!

He always has a smile on his face, even if it is just a little smirk.  He loves watching soccer and listening to music.  He loves just being a kid and he tries to play and have fun even if he is in Salon Mango for long periods of time.

I really just hope and pray that he beats his cancer and goes on to accomplish his goals.  He has so much life ahead of him, so many adventures, and cancer shouldn’t be the winner in this battle.

Contributed by Avriel Burlot, NPH Haiti Communication Specialist

Cervical Cancer Screening Training

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Basic Health International, in partnership with Direct Relief and collaboration with the St. Luke Foundation, has implemented a Cervical Cancer screening project at Manitane Clinic for women in Tabarre.  The goal is to increase the capacity of medical professionals at St. Luke to prevent the disease using low-cost screening and treatment techniques. Over the course of 3 week-long delegations, BHI physicians have trained 18 local physicians, nurses, and midwives to identify pre-cancerous cells, using Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA), and to treat pre-cancerous cells with a freezing technique called cryotherapy.

Through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience, BHI workshops have focused on instructing local health providers on identifying positive cases of HPV infection. The goal is to train community health workers to work directly with the community to increase awareness of cervical cancer and to inform women that screenings and treatment are available.

Presently, over 1600 women have been screened and the equipment used by the medical delegations has been donated to the Manitane Clinic, enabling the integration of VIA screening into their overall standard of care.  We identified one woman with cervical cancer and Dr. Jill Whyte, a gynecologic oncologist, came from New York with Dr. Rachel Masch (the director of the program), and Dr. Michele Germain.  The patient had a successful radical hysterectomy and is doing well post-operatively.  Ongoing care will be provided by the staff at the NPH St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and Manitane Clinic.

Contributed by Rachel Masch

St. Damien Tilapia Fish Farm

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Thanks to the most generous help of Bill Horan, Mike Picchietti and the expert team of Operation Blessing, St. Damien Pediatric Hospital started it’s tilapia farm today, due to the expert project leadership and fully donated project management, and staff formation, by these good friends!

Our costs were material and labor of the actual farm. NPH Italy Francesca Rava helped with funding for the project.

We began with 8,000 tilapia today.

This is part of an effort toward sustainable and local production of protein and vitamin rich food for the hospital and NPH homes and schools, and an additional source of income for the hospital.

We look forward to increasing our agricultural yields and fish production in the future.

Thanks to all for your support!

Fr. Rick Frechette
National Director, NPH Haiti

Collaborative for the Improvement of Pediatrics in Haiti

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I am delighted to endorse NPH, and specifically St. Damien Hospital, the premiere pediatric hospital in Haiti, but my efforts fit into a larger institutional program – SCIPH! This is a collaborative of six US children’s hospitals and universities pivoted around HSD (Akron Children’s Hospital, Rainbow Babies Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters, Children’s UMass Memorial, Children’s Medical Center, Hasbro Children’s Hospital and University of Minnesota). While each of the children’s hospitals has a lead physician champion, including Dr. Gautier at St. Damien, there are countless committed individuals at each institution, including our US pediatric residents who rotate through St. Damien. We are all committed to the overarching goal of global child health; the idea that all children deserve high quality health care irrespective of their place in the world.

SCIPH is a truly a synergistic model of academic medical engagement in global health. We have a long-term commitment to St. Damien and hold annual conferences with a fundraising gala for St. Damien. In September 2012, our first event was in Akron, OH; no doubt because of the vision and leadership of Dr. Jeff Kempf (see previous feature on NPFS website). And we at Hasbro Children’s Hospital at Brown University were lucky to host the event this past October at our medical school. Brown enjoyed hosting: Dr. Henrys, the Dean of L’Université Notre-Dame d’Haïti (UNDH); Dr. Luisa Oriol, the UNDH medical student clerkship director and St. Damien director of outpatient care; Dr. Eyssallenne, the new St. Damien pediatric residency director, and of course Dr. Gautier, the St. Damien chief medical officer. It provided a time for open flow of ideas away from clinical duties allowing opportunities to gain new knowledge, create partnerships, and sustain collaborations. Each partner brings a strength that is greater than the sum of our parts paralleling the efforts of all the Haitian physicians and staff at HSD, whose daily commitment to the children of Haiti holds its strength in a common mission.

Brown’s visit to St. Damien this January included Dr. Kahleb Graham and Dr. Allison Lemkin, both residents from Hasbro Children’s Hospital. We spent several months in advance working in a small dedicated group to prepare educational materials for the Haitian students from UNDH who rotate through St. Damien. We prepared four specific pediatric cases, each with a disease common to Pediatrics, and contextualized to conditions in Haiti. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting with the students and teaching. Teaching is a passion for me, and at Hasbro it is just part of our culture: senior residents teach medical students and junior residents, at the bedside, on clinical rounds, and in formal teaching sessions.

When we rolled out the case-based learning it was a wonderful highlight of the trip. The UNDH students eagerly participated and really enjoyed the sessions. I was also invited to give the Grand Rounds at St. Damien on “Complicated Pneumonia,” and enjoyed having questions from the new Haitian pediatric residents. Throughout our visit I was particularly impressed by the Haitian residents’ knowledge base, clinical skills, level of participation, and commitment to learning. I can also see true and honest dedication of the senior staff during events like the morning report and afternoon rounds, where they challenge and support the residents to reach their potential and become pillars of change for child health. The new residency program is in full swing and the current residents are clearly top-notch!
Dr. Graham and Lemkin had this to say about their experience working shoulder-to shoulder with their Haitian colleagues: “…it was a privilege to learn from the Haitian physicians at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital. Our clinical experiences were intellectually and emotionally challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Patients were often medically complex with delayed presentations to care due to extreme poverty and lack of primary care. Limited diagnostic resources and treatment options were daily obstacles, but we worked with experienced clinicians and dedicated interpreters to improve the health of many of the patients. We are not only inspired to return to the US to share our experiences, but also, more importantly, to return to St. Damien Pediatric Hospital to assist in its goal to provide quality pediatric care to thousands of Haitian children.”

I think working at St. Damien also gives us a chance to recognize our privilege and blessings in life. First Peter 4:10 tells us what is received as a gift should be used to serve others, and Matthew 10:8 tells us what we receive for free should be given for free. So, it is also our honor to have the opportunity and invitation to serve side-by-side with our Haitian colleagues and give back to the children.

While I am fortunate to work with the leaders of SCIPH and support St. Damien, one last point I must make is that NPH is more than St. Damien. After learning more about the community-outreach of the NPH programs, I became involved in child sponsorship, please see my blog from some time ago, but I think the message still rings true: if we support the children, then we are supporting a better world!


Contributed by Michael P. Koster, MD, FAAP
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine Hasbro Children’s Hospital