Dartmouth Tele-Medical Project in Haiti Celebrates One Year

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Just over a year since helping to establish a tele-medical education program for Haitian physicians and health care workers, a Dartmouth group recently returned from visiting the hospitals and medical professionals with whom they’ve been communicating electronically.

Dartmouth tele-medical program

Participants in meetings in Port-au-Prince with GHESKIO, an organization that is focused on care of patients with HIV/TB and other infectious diseases, included, from left: Galit Sacajiu, MD, Molly Bode ’09, Brian Remillard, MD, Claudia Riche (Head Nurse, GHESKIO), Drake Delvoix (Haiti Based Coordinator, Haiti Medical Education Project), and Andrew Martin, RN. (photo courtesy of Brian Remillard, MD)

During a week-long trip in April, Molly Bode ’09, a global health program officer with the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science; Brian Remillard, MD, chief of nephrology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine at The Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth; Andrew Martin, coordinator of global and national nursing initiatives for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s Continuing Nursing Education Team; and Galit Sacajiu, MD, director of the Haiti Medical Education Project and a close partner in the program, visited multiple Haitian hospitals, clinics, and universities to meet participants and evaluate the program.

The tele-medical program was founded in April 2011 to provide continuing medical education to doctors and health care providers in Haiti in the wake of the country’s devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in January 2010. Through a collaboration between Dartmouth College, McGill University, Université de Montreal, and the Haiti Medical Education Project, more than 45 video-conference lectures have been delivered every week, except holidays, to eight participating Haitian hospitals.

Reginald Fils-Aime, MD, a physician at Partners In Health’s hospital in Cange, has been participating in the tele-medical program since its inception, and says it’s been extremely helpful. “It gives us the opportunity to compare what we are doing to what others are doing, to discuss and exchange with physicians working in other countries,” he says. “This is very important.”

For some physicians and health care workers the tele-medical program is their only regular point of access to new knowledge and outside experts, Bode points out. The program is also “creating an incredible network between Haitian and American and Canadian medical personnel,” she says.

Remillard hadn’t traveled to Haiti since shortly after the January 2010 earthquake, when he accompanied the first of six teams of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center medical personnel who provided emergency health care aid in the country. He says Haiti’s “chronic day-to-day problems” are much more evident now.

“You’ll see 100 people lined up outside a clinic to see one doctor and wait all day only to find out that they may not have any medicine or the treatment for their problem,” he says. “It was everywhere, even at the university hospitals in Port-au-Prince. Every place we went to was profoundly under-resourced.”

Remillard said the next step is establishing a tele-medical program for nurses, which will be spearheaded by Martin. “Many of the nursing schools were destroyed during the earthquake, so I think this is going to be a great resource for them,” says Remillard. “Their nursing leaders will learn from our nursing leaders. And for both physicians and nurses, it gives them an important thing they haven’t had before, which is continuing medical education. But it’s a two-way street. We’re asking the Haitians to provide lectures on things they have expertise in as well.”

As a result of the team’s trip to Haiti, two additional medical sites signed up for the tele-medical education program and deans of four of the country’s five medical schools met to discuss future collaborations and initiatives. Bode said the visit also helped them to fine-tune some aspects of the program and confirmed that this is a good way to share the knowledge capacity at Dartmouth.

“I think we took away that there continues to be so much need and this is one way to help with medical education to ultimately improve health care delivery,” says Bode. “There are many organizations that are working on projects in Haiti and this is one way we can provide expertise from afar. We’re happy to be a part of it.”

The slideshow below includes photos from the Dartmouth team’s recent trip to Haiti to meet with the physicians and medical professionals who are participating in the weekly online medical lecture series program, as well as previous photos from Dartmouth’s Haiti response initiatives.