Fall 2010

Act Locally, Act Globally

The earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010 provided yet another opportunity for staff at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital to act on their belief in community and global service. Pediatric and neonatology clinicians have figured prominently in numerous volunteer efforts since the quake.

A Tent Hospital

One UCSF and San Francisco General Hospital group arrived in March as part of a team organized by Project Medishare and University of Miami Hospital. They worked in a tent hospital of about 300 pediatric beds, a neonatal/pediatric intensive care unit and an operating room.

Initially, UCSF neonatologist Alma Martinez, M.D., was the only attending physician in the NICU/PICU, working alongside a pediatric surgeon. "I was taking care of burn victims, car accidents, conditions I haven't taken care of since I was a chief resident," she says. "It was only made easier because all of the people I worked with were amazing &mdash supersmart, incredibly dedicated. And together, we figured out how to work with the working conditions."

Nevertheless, in the week she was there, Martinez says perhaps half a dozen children died from conditions that in other settings would not have been fatal. "I came back kind of haunted for a while," she confesses.

Other groups followed. In May, a team of UCSF pediatric nurses, again working with Project Medishare and University of Miami Hospital, staffed the pediatric tent, handling between 10 and 20 patients per nurse, and working shifts that could stretch to 36 hours. By then, the hospital had fully transitioned from an emergency earthquake center to a general hospital.

Katie Borgese and Dan Sanders"We cared for patients with common pediatric problems and ongoing medical needs from previous trauma," says Dan Sanders, part of a nursing team that included Katie Borgese, Meghan McKee and Steve Acheatel. "But we also treated people suffering from illnesses associated with being homeless, without infrastructure or sanitation &mdash things like malnutrition, typhoid and malaria."

Heartbreaking and Rejuvenating

Also in May, UCSF pediatric critical care fellows Monique Radman, M.D., and Aida Field-Ridley, M.D., volunteered at an Adventist hospital in Port-au-Prince through Partners in Health.

Despite having done years of international volunteer and relief work, Radman had never seen anything so devastating. "It was crazy," she says. "Even in May, the infrastructure was nowhere near self-sustainable from a health services standpoint. It was the hardest two weeks of my life."

Yet Radman hopes to return to Haiti soon. "It's important," she says. "If you're lucky enough to have education and skills, it's a responsibility. But there are selfish reasons too; you come back feeling more refreshed than when you left."

UCSF pediatrician Jane Anderson, M.D., agrees. For years, she and her family have used their vacations to set up infectious disease clinics in developing countries, mostly in Africa. "People are so loving and gracious," she says. "It's humbling and my family thrives on it."


Fall 2010 Table of Contents

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