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Northwestern Doctors Depart to Aid Haiti

Doctors speak French and Creole, have experience in developing countries

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January 26, 2010 | by Marla Paul
CHICAGO --- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital began sending physicians and health care workers on Monday to provide medical relief to the earthquake victims in Haiti. The group will include doctors who speak French and Creole and who have experience in developing countries.

The Northwestern physicians are part of a medical response team that includes four Chicago medical institutions. They are collaborating to send health care workers and medical supplies to Haiti.

The response team includes: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the University of Chicago Medical Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine; and Rush University, College of Medicine. 

The first group from Northwestern and the University of Chicago left Monday morning to provide medical services and get a first look on the ground. Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial are supplying medical supplies and equipment for the victims.

Martin Lucenti, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Feinberg and a physician at Northwestern Memorial, was in the first group. 

The University of Chicago provided two private planes and a personal supplies survival backpack for each of the team members. Additional Northwestern health care professionals will leave for Haiti Jan. 29 and Feb. 3. Each trip will last two weeks.  

Joseph Weistroffer, M.D., an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Feinberg and a spine surgeon at Northwestern Memorial will leave Friday. He has extensive experience in disaster settings and relief. 

Northwestern's relief effort is being led by Robert Murphy, M.D., director of the Northwestern Center for Global Health.

"Our relief effort will go on for two or three months at least," Murphy said.

A total of 40 Northwestern clinicians volunteered their time and personal finances to be a part of the team. This group includes orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, internal medicine and emergency medicine physicians and nurses. Twenty of them speak French, three speak Creole, and 16 have international experience in developing countries.

Murphy said medical care in Haiti is currently being provided in tents. "Only a few hospitals are standing. Most of the care will take place in these field hospitals, at least for now," Murphy said. Friday's team of doctors will arrive at a large hospital that is currently being set up on the Dominican Republic border. 

The medical response team is partnering with International Medical Corps

(IMC www.imcworldwide.org), which will be coordinating the physicians' schedules and logistics while on the ground in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. IMC is currently operating an urgent care health facility in Port-au-Prince and needs physicians and nurses.

"The outpouring of professional and institutional support from all the major Chicago institutions is phenomenal," Murphy said.

For more information contact Carolyn Baer, deputy director of the Northwestern Center for Global Health at (312) 503-8812 (office), (773) 595-0380 (cell) or c-baer@northwestern.edu.

If you would like to make a gift to support this trip, please visit http://foundation.nmh.org/HaitianRelief.

If you would like to make a donation by phone or check, please call Meredith Howell at (312) 503-0769.