Emory Haiti Alliance
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. More than half of the population live on less than $0.5 per day and lack electricity, 41 percent occupy a home without running water, and only two out of 10 homes has access to a latrine. Most of the people rely on manual labor to make a living.
In 2007, a group of Emory University physicians conducted a medical needs analysis in Hinche, a small town located in Haiti's Central Plateau, and found a striking prevalence of general surgical and urological conditions that are typically diagnosed and treated long before they can become a problem in countries like the United States.
In response to this situation, in July of 2008 the Emory Haiti Alliance—formerly known as Emory Medishare until 2016—began sending surgical teams to offer free medical attention and operations to patients at L'Hôpital Sainte-Thérèse de Hinche, situated in the poorest and most medically underserved region in all of Haiti. The annual trips became a summer tradition that focuses on integrating medical education with humanitarian objectives. Gradually, the week-long journeys began lasting a month. In 2017, the alliance switched its base of operations to Hôpital Bienfaisance in Pignon, also in Haiti's Central Plateau.
On these surgical trips, medical students of the Emory University School of Medicine assist faculty surgeons and surgery residents on complex surgical procedures while becoming acclimated to such conditions as minimal running water, ORs that function on a diesel generator, barely adequate lighting, and intermittent power outages that require the teams to operate by the light of headlamps. The students are also responsible for raising funds to finance the trips, making travel arrangements, recruiting physicians and staff, and procuring medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.
Over the years, the Emory Haiti Alliance surgical trips have developed into a month-long global surgery elective for senior medical students. The size of the teams has also increased to approximately 40 members, encompassing Emory anesthesiology, general surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and urology faculty; medical students; surgery residents; and mid-level practitioners. Larger teams and longer stays have allowed the teams to increase their caseloads by nearly 150 percent.
Participants often find the trips inspiring, especially as they encounter the strength and perseverance of the Haitian patients, many of whom are suffering from the types of severe conditions that often result from extreme poverty and lack of access to care. Transformed by these experiences, certain medical students have chosen careers in surgery or sub-surgical specialties with an international focus. Former members from the early years of the organization have helped craft Emory University's policies on extramural clinical experiences, advanced to residency positions with formal global health components, and met with leaders in the global surgery community at national meetings.
Upcoming Surgical Trips
Unfortunately, political and social unrest, natural disasters, and global pandemics have caused the cancellation of trips to Pignon in 2019 and 2020. However, the alliance is continuing fundraising for future trips, maintaining communication with its international partners and serving them remotely however possible, and hopes to travel again in 2021. You can review the status of these efforts on the student-maintained website for the Emory Global Perioperative Alliance.
How to Donate to the Emory Haiti Alliance
The costs associated with these trips are significant, and include such overhead as medical supplies and team members' airfare. Private and corporate generosity can do much to reduce the impact of these expenses on team members while fueling the trips' successes. By giving, you can become an integral part of this educational and humanitarian effort and contribute to Emory's ongoing mission to help define the future of healthcare in this country and abroad.
The fastest and most cost-effective way to contribute is through the Emory Online Giving page that is specifically configured to accept payments for the Surgery Education Medical Missions account.
Donations can also be made using check, money order, electronic funds transfer, or by giving appreciated stock or other real property. You can also invest in the program with a bequest or life income gift, which can provide for you and your family, create tax benefits, and leave an important legacy for this nexus of Emory's educational and international efforts.
Gifts can be mailed to the Office of Gift Records, 1762 Clifton Road NE, Suite 1400, Atlanta, GA 30322. Please make checks payable to Emory University and note the Emory Haiti Alliance with your gift.
For any additional information or assistance in making your gift, please contact Susan House, senior director of development, Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University, by email or at 404.727.9110.
To donate any surgical instruments and/or medical supplies, including gloves, gauze, bandages, masks, shoe covers, gowns, sutures, needles and syringes, etc., please contact Peyton Hanson or Krystyna Rastorguieva.