Friday, July 23, 2010

Haiti symposium highlights need to sustain response

CARING FOR HAITI: MGH volunteers who had helped respond to the emergency in Haiti

ON JUNE 24, members of the MGH community gathered in the O'Keeffe Auditorium for an event focusing on the continuing crisis in Haiti. The symposium, "Haiti: Sustaining the Response," reflected on the MGH community's disaster response and recognized the work ahead. Presented by the MGH Center for Global Health, the event featured remarks and a discussion led by Paul Farmer, MD, co-founder of Partners in Health, and Robert Little, national correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Several MGH volunteers who had served in Haiti also shared their stories -- including Laurence Ronan, MD, of the Department of Medicine; Dave Henderson, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry; Jacquelyn Nally, RN, of the Department of Emergency Services; Annekathryn Goodman, MD, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; and Robert Sheridan, MD, of the Burns Service.

"We hosted the symposium to gather as a community of global health practitioners and advocates to share and learn from our experiences in Haiti," says David Bangsberg, MD, MPH, director of the MGH Center for Global Health. "It was an important opportunity to not only reflect on those experiences and let them guide the future of our global emergency response, but also acknowledge the need to sustain that response to ensure Haiti's future."

Little opened the symposium by sharing stories from his time aboard the USNS Comfort, where he had worked alongside Ronan. MGH volunteers who had served in Haiti also shared stories of struggle, survival and hope. Closing the symposium, Farmer called on the global health community to continue serving in Haiti and more importantly, to work to build an infrastructure so the local population can recruit, educate and train the next generation of caregivers.

Prior to the symposium, the Center for Global Health hosted a luncheon in the Bulfinch Tent to celebrate MGHers who had volunteered following the Jan. 12 earthquake. Staff members were invited to share their experiences and suggest how the global health community can better mobilize during a crisis.

"The MGH Center for Global Health is committed to supporting and enhancing the efforts of those dedicated members of our community who serve abroad and work with the most vulnerable populations," says Bangsberg. "Symposia like this give us an opportunity to listen to our colleagues and better understand their needs, which will only improve our response moving forward."

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