McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster medical students to assist in Haiti earthquake relief

By Laura Thompson
Published: March 2, 2010
McMaster medical students assist in Haiti relief
photo courtesy of Bahá'í World News Service
Audio: Interview with May Sanaee
Hamilton at noon, Talk 820 radio

Three medical students from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine will travel to Haiti this week to deliver supplies and learn from a medical team working out of a makeshift clinic in Port-au-Prince.

The students — May Sanaee and Regine Krechowicz of the Niagara Regional Campus and Layli Sanaee of the main Hamilton campus — will be based at the Anis Zunuzi Baha’i School as part of a training opportunity that will allow them to experience disaster medicine first hand.

"All three of us have always known that global health is going to be a part of our professions," said May Sanaee, a second-year student and lead organizer. "We know this experience will be as tough as it will get and as extreme as it will be. But this is what we expect to do for the rest of our lives, so we want to start learning now."

All three of the students have previous experience overseas and in international development. Prior to medical school, May Sanaee embarked on graduate studies in global heath, while her sister Layli has been involved in developing an educational project in rural Saint Lucia. Krechowicz completed a volunteer placement with a doctor in India, as well as worked as part of a CIDA project in Serbia and Bosnia.

While at the Port-au-Prince clinic, all three students will be supervised by Muni Tahzib, a pediatrician from New Jersey who helped organize the medical team, and Varqa Rouhipour, an orthopedic surgeon from Texas.

The McMaster medical students are the second group of learners to be based at the temporary clinic, which was fashioned from several classrooms at the Baha’i school following the Jan. 12 earthquake.

In the immediate aftermath, the clinic provided wound care up to 500 patients a day. Sanaee said she and the other students expect to be assisting in this area, as well as providing an extra set of hands wherever necessary.

"We have received such positive encouragement from our teachers at McMaster and the physicians who are on the ground in Haiti," said Sanaee, who is originally from Richmond Hill, Ont. "They have encouraged us to reflect on the ethical issues surrounding our travel while at the same time assuring us that there is a role for us there and we will be of help."

With the support of the Niagara community, the students have raised funds to purchase six physician travel packs, which include an assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies that can treat up to 1,000 children and adults.

Donations have come from local businesses, family members as well as individual physicians and medical students within the McMaster community. The Baha’i community of St. Catharines has also offered its support.

"It is really our honour to be in a position to help May and her colleagues with this important trip," said Ted Slavin, secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of St. Catharines. "The skills of these aspiring doctors are needed in Haiti, even weeks after the initial disaster of the quake."

Donations of old suitcases and hockey bags are still being sought to transport supplies to Haiti. The students are also seeking support to cover the costs of the overweight baggage.

The medical students depart for Haiti on March 3 and return on March 11.

They are the latest members of the Faculty of Health Sciences community to offer assistance in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. Several professors from McMaster University are currently in Haiti and Dr. Lynda Redwood-Campbell of the Department of Family Medicine will also be deployed on March 3.

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