PA students and faculty participate in service learning in Haiti

This past September, two clinical year students, Tony Steier and Gabe Wofford, elected to spend half of a clinical rotation in Ranquitte, Haiti, joining a health care provider team that was led by Wake Forest PA Program alumnus, Pamela Burwell, PA-C. Ms. Burwell is the founder of Peacework Medical and is a past recipient of the American Academy of Physician Assistants International Humanitarian PAragon Award.

The team consisted of PAs, physicians, nurses, ER techs, and an acupuncturist/naturopath from across the United States. This was the first time that Wake Forest PA students joined Burwell’s team, and they received course credit for their experiences. Tony and Gabe were also accompanied by two Wake faculty members, Ian Smith, MMS, PA-C, and Suzanne Reich, PA-C, MPAS.

Ranquitte is a village in Haiti’s mountainous region and is 4 to 5 hours north of Port-au-Prince by car. The residents have little access to health care services, with long distances and rugged terrain making their situation even more challenging. Almost no one has transportation of any sort, so walking for miles to procure food and other necessities is routine.

The Peacework Medical team set up a makeshift clinical site in a village church and its out-buildings constructed of cinder block walls with corrugated metal roofs. Dozens of Ziploc bags of medications set out on rows of benches made up the pharmacy. Each day, hundreds of locals stood in line in the heat to see the clinicians, to have even just one opportunity to be listened to and cared for. Haitian Creole-speaking interpreters were key members of the team, allowing the clinicians to understand the needs of the adults, children, and infants seeking care.

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Clinic in the church

Our clinicians and students provided burn management, wound care, fracture and sprain management, incision and drainage, and female reproductive system exams. There was even a separate acupuncture “clinic” for patients with musculoskeletal pain and other ailments.

In addition to running a daily clinic, the team also traveled by “moto” (riding with local motorcyclists) to a nearby orphanage to render care to those children as well as to the children who lived in the surrounding valley. Home visits occurred almost daily to see patients who needed medication checks, were victims of accidents, or were too sick to travel.

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Tony Steier and Gabe Wofford

Our students, Gabe and Tony, made an incredibly positive impact on this destitute community by working hard and by offering their caring, compassion, and friendship. Our faculty members showed leadership in service learning by providing care to hundreds of patients while also teaching PA students and a local nurse. And, we are very proud of alumnus Pam Burwell for her never-ending optimism and spirit of philanthropy and service to humanity. Wake Forest is blessed to have a tradition of excellence, and these people have added accolades to that tradition by choosing to travel the rugged Haitian roads to unconditionally give of themselves to those in need. [written by faculty member Suzanne Reich, MPAS, PA-C]



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