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In This Issue:
Reserve Coffy, of Haiti, and Betsy Nabel speak with BWH and PIH staff. Paul Farmer greets the audience in Haitian-Creole.
Three months after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, BWHers remain unyielding in their passion and commitment to care for survivors and help the country rebuild.
Hundreds attended a special event last week to hear Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, chief of Global Health Equity and UN deputy special envoy for Haiti, speak about the BWH response and Haiti’s ongoing needs, and many stayed long afterward to consult with him about how to continue helping.
The Brigham’s “profound spirit of generosity was the most uplifting thing that we’ve seen in our lives in the past few months,” he told a packed Bornstein Amphitheater, where every seat, step and standing space was occupied. “I want to express my own thanks and pride for being part of the Brigham all these years.”
Farmer, whose trajectory between Haiti and the Brigham has endured for a quarter century, spoke of the challenges Haiti has faced since the earthquake, including the fact that there is no way of knowing for certain exactly how many lives, limbs and homes were lost. “I myself feel like I know 2,000 people who have lost a limb,” he said. “We don’t really know the enormity of what happened.”
And with hurricane season approaching Haiti, the challenge of addressing shelter is imminent, as hundreds of thousands of Haitians are living in tent settlements at risk of landslides and flooding.
He spoke at times in Haitian-Creole, drawing cheers and understanding nods from employees and guests from Haiti in the audience. Among them was Port-au-Prince native Reserve Coffy, who is receiving care along with his wife at BWH.
BWH President Betsy Nabel, MD, who traveled to Haiti in February with Farmer and Gary Gottlieb, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Partners HealthCare, met the Coffys in Haiti and worked with Partners In Health to facilitate their journey to BWH for care. She shared an e-mail she received from their son Jean Paul: “There are no words to describe how happy I am that they are getting the medical care they so desperately need. This has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.”
Nabel, Farmer and Gottlieb praised the response of multiple departments and individuals at BWH, who supported their colleagues and patients at home and worked closely with Partners In Health to deploy and send equipment and supplies to Haiti.
“There is a Haitian expression that appears on the country’s flag: L’union fait la force. It means strength through unity,” Nabel said. “In many ways, the expression truly captures the warmth, the compassion and the tremendous response of the entire Brigham community.”
Gottlieb noted that there are 2,500 employees of Haitian descent across the Partners system. “In the past few months, they have taught us about strength of family, commitment and more about their culture than we understood before,” he said.
Gottlieb spoke of the many departments and individuals who helped Partners In Health, the non-profit organization founded by Farmer, Ophelia Dahl and others, to grow over the past two decades. “There is tremendous work to be done in Haiti now,” he said. “So much of the understanding of it has come from the inspiration that’s grown out of the Brigham, inspiration that’s come from here for the better part of a generation that helped Partners In Health to sustain its mission.”
BWH staff listen intently as Paul Farmer discusses the response
to Haiti and ongoing needs.
BWH residents and other clinicians have been rotating for years through Partners In Health hospitals in Haiti and elsewhere in the world, caring for patients, teaching clinicians and learning about the importance of global health and delivering health care in resource-poor settings.
“Many people in Haiti have been displaced, and a large number of them are going to places where there are significant Brigham investments—where our residents work,” Farmer said. “We must contemplate this situation and our response with a great deal of humility because nothing of this magnitude has ever happened before.”
Farmer, whom Gottlieb called “one of the children of the Brigham who has brought great light, warmth and leadership to the world,” urged his colleagues to stay involved with relief efforts in Haiti.
“I wish I could echo here all the thank yous I have heard in Haiti,” he said. “I will continue to count on your goodwill and solidarity with the people of Haiti, who not only need it but deeply deserve it.”
BWH’s Division of Global Health Equity seeks support to establish a $2.5 million fund, the Fund to Invest in Haiti’s Future. This fund will enable BWH to lead relief efforts during the next three years in partnership with Partners In Health. To make a gift online, visit: www.brighamandwomens.org Specify the “Fund to Invest in Haiti” as the recipient in the section marked “other” in the gift section. For details, call Nancy Sandman at 617-424-4345.