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

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