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Published on June 22, 2017

patients waiting to be seen at Haiti clinic

Compassion in Action: Avera’s Haiti Mission

Catherine Wolf, MD, is the executive director, clinical director and founder of the Friends for Health in Haiti mission, an effort Avera supports. She is our special guest author for this blog.

We have been blessed to have visits several times each year from our friends from the Avera Health system in South Dakota. This group of hospitals and clinics has a tremendous commitment to mission work in the world and we are blessed that they have chosen to partner with Friends for Health in Haiti as a global mission outreach.

They brought a group of 11 to Jérémie two weeks ago and most of them were return visitors. Six members of the group worked with us at the clinic and five of them stayed in Jérémie, where they performed breast cancer screening at the government hospital. The breast team did come to our clinic Wednesday, and they offered breast cancer screening for our patients. It was a great chance for them to see our clinic and for us to offer another service to our patients.

The director of the Avera mission teams, Kathy English, RN, has been to Haiti dozens of times and handles all the participant logistics. We were thrilled that on this visit she was accompanied by her husband, Dr. Gil English, an OB/gynecology specialist. We announced ahead of time that there would be a specialist at the clinic during the week and we were inundated by patients wanting to take advantage of his skills and the opportunity to get Pap tests for cervical cancer screening.

This is one of the wonderful services that Avera offers to our patients and, on this visit Dr. English performed a record number of Pap tests, with the help of the team nurses. He also saw lots of general medical patients and became quite adept at prescribing medications for hypertension and acid reflux. On a single day, he and I saw 111 patients! That was definitely a clinic record.

In addition to the medical personnel, we were blessed to have as part of the group biomedical technician Steve Kruger and mechanic/rancher Jerome Malsom. Steve and Jerome fixed several pieces of broken equipment, put up blood pressure cuffs and wall otoscopes and stained and varnished numerous shelving units. It was the second visit for both of them and they benefitted from their familiarity with our workshop and staff.

We were privileged to have the rest of the Avera team come to our clinic to provide breast cancer screening for our patients, as they were doing the rest of the week down at the government hospital in Jérémie. The team, led by Dr. Andrew Soye, did a great job of screening those women who came for evaluation of breast masses. They obtained ultrasound exams on those with definite masses and our team performed biopsies on those with suspicious findings.

One of the most exciting things about the Avera visit was that they brought us a wonderful gift: a used gastroscopy device, or endoscope, complete with a light source and video equipment. So now we can do our own endoscopy for patients with complaints of acid reflux. This enables us to look directly into the esophagus and stomach of these patients to see if they have peptic ulcer disease. It helps not only with diagnosis but with treatment decisions for these patients. We see hundreds of patients with acid reflux symptoms each month, so there was great need for such equipment to make this procedure happen.

The used equipment has a trade-in value of $20,000-30,000, making it an incredibly generous gift. We want to give huge thanks to the Avera McKennan Hospital CEO Dr. Dave Kapaska, who made this gift possible, as well as Chad Bare, Director of the Avera McKennan Endoscopy Center. Thank you both. We also thank Kathy English because she initiated the request; this is an exciting new development for us and for our patients, one we appreciate very much.

Biomedical technician Steve Kruger got the endoscope and video system all set up and he and Jerome stained and varnished the wooden cart that a group from New Jersey had built for us last year specifically to hold the endoscopy equipment.

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