Six New Haitian Pediatricians to Serve the Children

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On September 18th, six new pediatricians trained by the consortium NPH Haiti St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, University Notre Dame d’Haiti (UNDH) and Hospital Bernard Mevs/ Medishare, graduated after three years of training. The graduates were:

  • Renee Alcee
  • Roberson Charles
  • Joelle C. Denis
  • Frantzy Dieudonné
  • Danielle Dorinvil
  • Valerie Lallemand

The residency program started in September 2013, to improve the quality of pediatric care in Haiti where there is an estimated one doctor for every 15,000 people, with the most vulnerable being children.

There is a severe shortage of specialty training for medical graduates in Haiti. Only 60% of them have access to a residency program. Furthermore, only 300 pediatricians are in function in a country where 30% of the 10 million inhabitants are children under 15 years of age. St. Damien, with over 20 years of experience in managing pediatric healthcare, decided to combine its efforts with UNDH and Bernard Mevs/Medishare to work at decreasing this severe gap by implementing the residency program.

The graduation ceremony took place at UNDH and started with a prayer, which was then followed by a speech from graduate and chief resident, Dr. Renee Alcé. Many guests, international friends, and family were there to support the graduates who worked hard for the last three years. Dr. Brittany Potts, pediatrician from Ohio represented the St. Damien Collaborative.

Program directors, congratulated the six new pediatricians for their motivation and devotion to achieve their dreams. The residents then offered appreciation plaques to their mentors, as well as to Ms .Margareth Mehu, the coordinator of the program. Mentors who received plaques were:

  • Antonia Eyssallenne, Residency Program Director
  • Jacqueline Gautier, National Director of St. Damien Pediatric Hospital
  • Jerry Bitar and Marlon Bitar, Executive Director of Bernard Mevs/Medishare
  • Jude Jean Jacques, Coordinator University of Notre Dame D’Haiti
  • Margareth Mehu, Coordinator of the Residency Program at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital

Dr. Renee Alcé, who had been chosen to be the chief resident for her exceptional leadership and interpersonal skills, gave a wonderful speech. She reported that her peers and herself fought until the end of these three years for every single child they were caring for even though resources were limited.

At the forefront of pediatrics in Haiti, St. Damien provides training opportunities in the care of surgical patients, childhood cancer, and many other pediatric specialties available nowhere else in the country. The residency program enjoys support from a network of committed children’s hospitals, known as St. Damien Collaborative that includes:

  • Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron, OH
  • University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Minneapolis, MN
  • Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, RI
  • Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Norfolk, VA
  • University of Massachusetts Memorial Children’s Medical Center, Boston, MA
  • Dell Children’s Medical Center, Austin, TX
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE
  • Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Cleveland, OH
  • McGill University, Montreal, Canada

In her speech, Dr. Alcé expressed her gratitude to the group on behalf of her colleagues. She also thanked all the Haitian physicians who mentored them during their training at Bernard Mevs Hospital as well as at St. Damien.

St. Damien is pleased to announce that two of the graduating residents, Dr. Renée Alcé and Dr. Charles Roberson, have been hired. Dr. Alcé is working as Chief Resident coordinating the residency program along with the other program directors; Dr. Charles works at the emergency department. Dr Joëlle Denis has been hired at Hospital Bernard Mevs. We are certain that the three others will soon be employed. In the meantime, two are replacing other pediatricians on vacations at St. Damien.

Making an HIV Free Future a Reality in Haiti

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Haiti has made tremendous progress in recent years in its efforts against HIV and AIDS, reducing new infections, lowering AIDS-related deaths and increasing access to treatment. Yet, the small island nation still has a long way to go to be HIV free. Fifty-five percent of all HIV positive people in the Caribbean live in Haiti. As in many places, women and girls are disproportionately affected due to stigma and cultural practices. Young women in Haiti are three times more likely to be HIV-positive than young men. One of the champions leading the charge for an AIDS free generation in Haiti is Dr. Jenny Edouard and her dedicated team at St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital.

Dr. Jenny Edouard has been fighting for an HIV free Haiti since she graduated from medical school in Port-au-Prince in 2006. She now coordinates a public health and HIV program at the St. Damien’s, a 224-bed pediatric hospital that provides over 80,000 medical services annually to children and their families. Dr. Edouard supervises a community health and HIV program that provides care to over 4,000 children annually with a particular focus on the elimination of mother to child transmission (EMTCT) of HIV.

“We’ve made huge strides towards eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV. Our EMTCT programs have been impactful, practical and effective in reducing HIV transmission in Haiti. Infant mortality has decreased and when mothers take part in the program, their children are given the chance to live HIV free. Soon we hope we’ll see a new, HIV free generation here,” says Dr. Edouard.

Dr. Edouard shares that “EMTCT is a challenge in Haiti. We see women delaying early prenatal care, we have trouble following up with our patients in rural areas, low hospital delivery rates, and most significantly, a stigma around HIV that leaves women afraid their partners may abandon them or resort to violence if they take part in the program. These are the things we are fighting against.”

“The EMTCT program saves lives – it’s that simple. The overall mortality rate of children born to HIV-positive mothers has significantly decreased as a result of this program. Women also find support in a new community free of fear of being stigmatized. They can talk with each other about their fears and concerns openly. Many become friends and educate other HIV positive pregnant women about the risk their infants face and how the EMTCT program can help,” Dr. Edouard recounts.

Since the beginning of St. Damien’s EMTCT program in 2011, Dr. Edouard and her team have worked with over 400 HIV positive pregnant women. The program’s current cohort includes 79 soon-to-be mothers. Dr. Edouard attributes part of the program’s success to its comprehensive approach which integrates HIV testing and counseling, nutrition services, and support for women affected by domestic violence.

“EMTCT services open the door for HIV care and treatment services not only for women, but also their partners and families. We believe that more investment in the EMTCT program could have a significant impact on maternal and child survival in Haiti among HIV positive patients. Despite the many challenges we face each day we are incredibly proud to do what we do and to take care of our patients,” says Dr. Edouard.

“Our HIV program with integrated EMTCT services is working incredibly well. Nearly all of the children of the HIV-positive pregnant women supported by our facility are HIV free. We’ve experienced several unfortunate budget cuts over the previous few years that have led us to lose staff. For this reason, we’re more grateful than ever for partners who are standing by these important programs.”

Photo Credit: Angela Altus

Learning How To Better Care For Children In Haiti


Janet Rogers, left, made a lasting impression on Edna Benjamin Pierre Louis.

Edna Benjamin Pierre Louis is the director of nursing at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Haiti.  Edna and 6 of her colleagues are spending 5 weeks training in their respective fields at Akron Children’s Hospital. In September, the Akron Children’s staff who works closely with them in Akron will travel to Haiti to complete the cycle and further their training and education at St. Damien. This program is supported through a grant from Rotary, which shares Akron Children’s vision of empowering our Haitian colleagues to care for the children of Haiti in a sustainable way. 

Here are Edna’s reflections after her first week in Akron:

On Monday, May 23, I met an extraordinary woman. Janet Rogers is the director of critical care, emergency departments and specialty care units at Akron Children’s Hospital. Janet is leaving a huge impression on me, starting with the kindness she has shown me throughout my first week.

She introduced me to several other managers and directors who were also very welcoming.

I had the opportunity to attend several meetings with Janet. At the beginning, I didn’t understand how the hospital functioned but after only a short time, I understood so much more than when I started.  I was happy to see how everyone works as a team here. Although there are many people involved, they function as a unified team and I was impressed to see how well everything is coordinated and planned.

Learning How To Better Care For Children In Haiti

Janet further impressed me with the way she equitably handles conflict that arises in the workplace.  She also never tires of my questions.  I never ask questions during meetings, instead when I want to better understand something, I ask Janet about it after the meeting and she is always available to answer my questions.

This week was a great week for me and I hope to continue to take advantage of every minute I spend with the great staff at Akron Children’s, especially Janet.

Thank you Janet and thank you to everyone who has worked with Janet and I this week!

I would also like to thank Dr. Jeff Kempf and Dr. Brittany Potts for allowing me to participate in this beautiful experience in nursing administration at Akron Children’s Hospital and to everyone else who helped develop this training program.  I also cannot forget to thank the Rotarians from Ohio and Port au Prince.


World Health Day – April 7th


St. Damien Pediatric Hospital strives to heal every child that arrives for care. In 2015, we provided over 13,000 consults and over 3,400 children were admitted. Every day is “health day” at St. Damien.

St. Damien is part of the NPH Family. At our NPH homes, over 600 children live with chronic health conditions. Whether it’s treatment for HIV or a life-saving surgery, our local and international medical services team of healthcare professionals provide our children with access to vital services. As part of this process, we support local healthcare staff and promote collaboration among our homes’ interdisciplinary teams to ensure each child receives the best physical and emotional care possible.

“NPH goes to enormous lengths for children who have special and serious medical conditions and disabilities -enormous lengths to take care of them, even life-long.”  Fr. Rick Frechette, CP, DO.

In honor or World Health Day, take 2 minutes to watch our updated Healthcare Video…


Saving Lives – Cardiac Pediatric Surgery at St. Damien

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Eleven children received heart surgery at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital during the week of Feb 21-28th. Led by Gift of Life International, Rotary clubs in Haiti, Akron’s Children Hospital, Haiti Cardiac Alliance and Open Heart Haiti, together this wonderful partnership is able to help Haitian children with heart disease. Our goal is that this program will intensify as Haitian staff are trained to provide care for children in their own country. This is an extraordinary opportunity for St. Damien Hospital to partner with other nongovernmental organizations to continue the mission of providing medical care for children who are the most vulnerable.

This was the third mission that St. Damien has hosted and in total 32 children have received surgery during the past 1.5 years at our facilities. We have a great need for this specialized surgery in Haiti, as over 1,000 children are struggling with heart disease.

Photo credits: Ted Stevens

How 57 Days Saved a Life

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Dear friends,

I wish to share with you all the beautiful story of Lucien*. It was Saturday, September 12th, the day of the Holy name of Mary, and Father Rick Frechette and I weaved through crowed streets on the backs of motorcycles in route to help run a clinic at St. Joseph’s with the Missionaries of Charity, also known as the Sisters of Mother Theresa. As we neared the church in Croix des Bossales, we came upon a bustling marketplace, full of people selling and trading. The crowd was so thick it blocked our way. It seemed like there was not an inch of space; a pin thrown into the air would surly have struck a pedestrian and not the ground. This same marketplace dates back to France’s rule in Haiti and was once a slave trading outpost. We gathered our courage and plunged into the crowd on foot elbowing and nudging our way to the gates of St. Joseph’s. We went from the crowded streets to a crowed courtyard as the church’s exterior was lined with the sick and destitute. I was amazed at their numbers and baffled at how they managed to part the sea of people we had barely just been able to swim through to get there.

We gathered with the Sisters and prayed over all the pain and suffering and asked for God’s guidance in the work before us. Then we began, washing, cleaning, and bandaging wounds of every kind. Father Rick, being a medical doctor, spent most of his time seeing children and diagnosing chronic diseases, malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis, hepatitis, etc. The line to receive care is long and it takes a while, but eventually a man walks up with a very sick child and places him before us. This sick child’s name is Lucien. Father Rick’s face fills with concern upon seeing him. I immediately notice how skinny the child is and that he is non-responsive and close to death. We are too late perhaps. I see in Fr. Rick’s eyes a small glimmer of hope. A hope that is not rooted in science but rather in faith. As a doctor, he thought that Lucien wouldn’t make it, but as a priest, he knows that all things are possible through Christ.

We got one of the Sisters to put in an IV, which in itself was a challenge as the dehydration was so severe that it seemed impossible to find a vein on Lucien. Father Rick told me to watch carefully the skill of the Sister. I was impressed not only by her skill inserting the needle in one of the veins on the child’s head but by her focus and compassion while she was doing it. She was devoted to God asking Him for His assistance, and towards Lucien, recognizing how every life is sacred. This is the same devotion I always see in the other Sisters while they spend their early hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Once the needle was inserted, Father Rick had me squeeze with all my strength so as to force the fluid from the IV into Lucien as fast as possible. If we couldn’t rehydrate the child, he surely would die. As the first bag started trickling life back into Lucien’s body, Father Rick stepped out to arrange to take him to the NPH Haiti St. Damien Pediatric Hospital. The first bag emptied, a second was attached, I looked at Lucien and his father, my heart was aching for them. A father watching his baby die in front of him, words eluded me. I felt totally useless as I prayed that the liquid would revive this shriveled child. I asked Lucien’s father if there was anything else I could do, as if I had the ability to do something! I immediately thought, “I’m truly a fool”. But there are moments that only afterwards you realize that it wasn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. At my request, his father asked me, “Can you please baptize him?”. I was caught by surprise because that was actually the only thing I was really able to do. I did not hesitate. I took some water in my hands and after praying with him and the Sisters, I baptized Lucien. It was a very moving moment and my heart quietly cried to God, “he’s not only your creature now, he’s your son! Please, have mercy!”

Right after the baptism, Father Rick came back and handed papers over to Lucien’s father telling him that there is no time to waste and that he must run Lucien to St. Damien, but the man had no means of transportation and it would of taken hours before one of our ambulances could have come to pick them up. So Father Rick asked Father Hugo Esparza, a Passionist from Mexico who was visiting us, to accompany them to the hospital by motorbike. Imagine the scene on the motorbike. A driver, a father holding his sick child, and then almost falling off the back, a priest holding an IV back high above his head winding through roads full of holes, traffic, garbage, and dust.

Once we finished visiting all the other patients, we headed back to St. Damien. I ran into the emergency room to see Lucien. He was pale and unconscious, still sitting on a chair because the emergency room was too full and there was no bed available for him. I asked the doctor about his condition, and she said he will probably die in the next few hours because he had septicemia. I looked in his father’s eyes and I saw a mixture of fear, desperation, and loss. Again I quietly cried to God, “Lucien became your beloved son today, please have mercy!”

After sunset I returned to the ER, and as I walked in, the doctor gave me a nod and said, “He’s still alive”.  I found Lucien in a bed that had opened up since his arrival. His father was next to the bed exhausted and asleep. I quietly touched Lucien’s right hand and he grabbed my finger almost as if he was saying to me, “no worries, I will hang on and I won’t let go”.

A few days later when I returned to the emergency room to check on Lucien, I couldn’t find him. My first thought was that he had finally succumb and passed away during the night. And although this is typically how the story ends in this case, God had other plans. Lucien was moved to the malnutrition room. I found him upstairs this time with his mother next to him. He grabbed my finger again, “Still holding on”.

Above the children’s bed are boards with each patients name and date of birth, Lucien: Dec 25th 2014. Born on Christmas day. Lucien, the boy who was saved both physically and spiritually by water, who had no bed in our ER upon arrival, whose very life is a miracle shares a birthday with Jesus.

A few weeks passed by without seeing the father, so I asked about him and was told by Lucien’s mother that when he found out that Lucien was diagnosed with a chronic disease on top of the malnutrition, he disappeared. She almost did the same. Our social service staff was able to convince her to stay and they placed her and Lucien in our follow up clinic. Still, they had nowhere to go to live. The father could not be contacted and Lucien’s grandmother (his mother’s mother) didn’t want to accept her daughter. In part because of the illness and also because she already cares for a four year old boy that her daughter conceived with another man in another similar situation. She was disappointed with her daughter and also considered Lucien as “a curse”. It seemed as the “no place for them in the inn” and the story was back again (cfr Luke 2:7).

On October 28th, the feast of St. Jude apostle, together with the Missionaries of Charity, we decided to go visit the grandmother and try to convince her to accept her daughter and Lucien, by promising to provide food and possibly some kind of job to help sustain them. I sent requests to many of my friends at NPH requesting prayer and asking for the intercession of the Holy Family and of St. Jude, hoping the grandmother would understand like St. Joseph did in his dream (cfr Mt 1:20), that Lucien is not cursed at all, that he has no fault in all this and that he is actually blessed because God has already saved his life. We wanted her to see that Lucien is a blessing, and that his life is a miracle, and that God cares for him very much.

On November 3th, Sr. Dominica, of the Missionaries of Charity, was able to meet Lucien’s grandmother who, after a long dialogue, accepted to welcome her daughter and grandson despite some financial and cultural issues. Lucien had improved so much in the last two months and now he is at home. Once a month, he and his mother will come to the hospital for follow up appointments with the clinic. We will also help the family by giving them a small business selling our chickens and tilapia fish produced by the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti. As you can see, your support is so important for us. Through it we are able to do outreach, to offer healthcare, education, water and food, and to help create jobs. All of these things allow people to live with dignity and change the trajectory of their lives.

In total, Lucien spent 57 days at St. Damien. He is a very blessed boy and I wish to express together with Fr. Rick and Lucien’s mother our gratitude for your prayers. Thank you all and please continue to pray for Lucien and his family, but especially for the so many other children and women, like Lucien and his mother, who are struggling to survive and searching for an extended hand or finger to hold on to. God bless you all and may we always make space in our hearts to welcome the child Jesus.

Fr. Enzo Del Brocco, C.P.

St. Damien treated over 360 children with severe malnutrition in 2015. Every donation that St. Damien receives helps to give life-saving medical care to those most in need. To help make a difference visit St. Damien Project

*Name changed to protect privacy.