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Haitian relief efforts forging stronger bond with Memorial


Members of Team Broken Earth on their last mission to Haiti.

By Sharon Gray

THis month a group of 30 health care professionals from Memorial University and Eastern Health will be in Haiti on a continuing mission to provide medical assistance to a country ravaged by an earthquake two years ago. The earthquake leveled the capital city of Port au Prince, killing 200,000 people and leaving more than a million people homeless.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Furey, assistant professor of surgery at Memorial, headed up the team. The February trip will be his fifth medical mission to Haiti, and the fourth trip for Team Broken Earth, a volunteer team of physicians, nurses and physiotherapists. In addition to medical care, Team Broken Earth wants to provide education to the Haitian people so that they can develop their own health system towards a North American standard.

"We're doing that by providing education on the ground, both formally and informally, and our plan is to bring some Haitians to Memorial's medical school as well for two or three weeks," said Dr. Furey. "We'd like this to be an ongoing partnership where we're able to provide education and ultimately they'll be able to advance their own healthcare system."

Memorial's dean of medicine, Dr. James Rourke, will join Team Broken Earth for a week during February.

"We've had phenomenal support from Dr. Rourke," said Dr. Furey. "The Faculty of Medicine helps fund any resident or professor we take."

And now Memorial's medical students want to take it further by having a formal elective set up for Haiti. Dr. Furey said once this is approved, one or two medical students a year could apply and spend a week in Haiti after preparing by doing various rotations in St. John's. The Haiti elective could also be used as an epidemiology research project.

Dr. Furey said as far as he knows, this relationship between Memorial and Haiti is the only one in Canada.

"Of all of the medical schools in Canada there is none that we are aware of that have developed this relationship," he said. "As the team develops, this is something we could be a leader with other medical schools across the country – in the year to come we hope the University of Calgary Medical School will be following our model."

For further information on Team Broken Earth, visit www.brokenearth.ca/about.html.

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