Summer 2010: Of Note
Calling Medical Volunteers
By Mary J. Loftus
A few weeks after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Atlanta volunteer Jean Cadet 10MPH found himself outside the Ministry of Health in Port-au-Prince. Normally, this building and its staff could have been a valuable resource to Cadet, a Haitian-trained physician and Emory graduate student who returned home after the quake to help care for the injured. But the ministry had collapsed into a pile of rubble, killing several staff members.
Because of his training at the Rollins School of Public Health and previous experience on medical missions in Haiti, Cadet was able to get to work himself—assisted by funds and basic medical supplies donated by Rollins students.
He and other health professionals discussed their experience and shared lessons learned at Emory’s first International Medical Volunteerism Conference in April.
“Though I couldn’t take much since I was traveling solo, whatever small help that I brought to that community was of value,” says Cadet. While in Haiti, he provided direct medical care to hundreds and gave impromptu public health sessions, teaching displaced residents how to construct latrines, dispose of garbage, and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
The conference, organized by Associate Professor Neil Shulman 71M and his wife, Zoe Haugo, was attended by about 1,500. “We want to inspire folks from all walks of life—professional and lay, students to retired—to become medical volunteers, as well as to create synergy among current medical volunteers so they can join forces and increase their impact,” Shulman says.
Health leaders at the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic spoke about how institutions and their faculty can get more involved; physician Jim Withers of Pittsburgh shared his experience founding an international organization of health professionals who treat the homeless; a family from Vanderbilt who volunteer together in developing countries gave advice on alternative family vacations; a septuagenarian surgeon spoke about his missionary work; and exhibitors offered real-life volunteer opportunities.
Clint Lawrence, a physician in Emory’s Department of Rheumatology and a singer-songwriter, was motivated to apply for the 500 Songs For Kids charity marathon. “Hearing others speak about their volunteer efforts prompted me to think of ways I could combine my music with volunteerism,” he says.
The conference itself was a voluntary effort: it cost just $2,000 due to the efforts of 175 students, faculty, and community members who freely donated their time.