Written by Dr. Laura Kuipers, HFH volunteer:
Education is the name of the game in western medicine. We educate our patients on their treatment options and medication side effects. We require ongoing “continuing education” to maintain licensure for health care professionals and have board testing to make sure that providers are practicing in the most up-to-date ways. And yet, the availability of ongoing medical education in Haiti has been left in a vacuum following the collapse of the National Medical School during the earthquake in 2010.
I have been going to Haiti with Haiti Foundation of Hope since 2009 and one of the most important impacts that I have seen over the past seven years has been the institution of a Medical Conference at the Clinic of Hope. When the first conference was held four years ago, we transformed our clinic space to a conference room and had approximately 40 attendees. We had lectures from four doctors on our team in their respective specialties and our presentation slides were all in English. Even so, some feedback from one of the Haitian doctors who attended still resonates with me now: “you have brought water to a dry desert,” reminding me that knowledge really is the lifeblood of the medical practice.
Since this modest beginning, the conference has expanded to over 130 attendees who travel from as far away as Port-au-Prince (a six hour drive). We have listened to feedback and provide French translations to our presentations, expanded our space by painting a new “screen” on the church wall so that we can accommodate these larger numbers and developed breakout sessions to be able to provide more topics for ongoing discussion.
What most impressed me during our most recent conference in February is that this is the second conference where we have had a Haitian physician presenting on a topic in their specialty. Not only does this signal that our conference has gained legitimacy within the Haitian medical community but also suggests to me that HFH is providing the platform for the Haitian to resume ongoing education of their own. This is so exciting and such a rewarding part of the trip for me that I tuck away my massive stage fright and take on tough topics because I know this is why I continue to go to Haiti. This is the water in the dry desert of the Haitian medical community.