Friday, March 9, 2018

Continuing a legacy: MGH responds to disasters

RESPONSE REFLECTIONS: Ann Prestipino, senior vice president of Surgery, Anesthesia, Emergency Medicine and Clinical Business Development, at right, and panelists

Dominica; Texas; the Florida Keys; Puerto Rico.These four regions were consecutively ravaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017. But each time, the MGH responded. On Feb. 15 in the O’Keeffe Auditorium, a panel of those dedicated responders – led by the Global Disaster Response (GDR) at the MGH Center for Global Health and the Center for Disaster Medicine – shared their deployment experiences.

Juan Pablo Domecq, MD, a clinical research fellow in the BWH Renal Division, recalled his deployment to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Dominica when he encountered a patient receiving dialysis lying on the ground. When the patient began bleeding, Domecq kneeled and immediately started applying pressure to stop the blood loss. Despite the circumstances, the patient gathered enough strength to ask Domecq to take a chair and make himself comfortable. “It was very rewarding that the person I was supposed to help was thinking of me,” said Domecq. “That patient – even in his situation – managed to have empathy.”

In sharing their heartfelt stories and expressing thanks to the staff for their exemplary response to the devastating disasters, other speakers at the event emphasized the importance of collaboration, preparation and gratefulness. “I want to acknowledge the internal and external teams, the senior leadership support at every level and the amazing collaboration with various departments,” said Hilarie Cranmer, MD, MPH, director of GDR at the MGH Center for Global Health. “There are so many people to thank for their service.”

Emphasizing the need for preparation, Paul Biddinger, MD, director of the Center for Disaster Medicine, said, “Just good clinical care or a good heart is not enough, preparation is important to deploy professionally and safely. You want to be sure that you can help and not become a victim yourself. We can train you.”

Staff – both clinical and non-clinical – who are interested in getting involved in international and national disaster response can visit

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