Rob Edelstein, MD, like much of the world, gripped by the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, decides that he would like to volunteer his surgical skills as a urologist to be part of the solution. It is his first experience practicing medicine outside the United States. He arrives in Haiti, four months after the earthquake, is catapulted into the middle of a medical crisis, and finds the best match of his skills, an organization for urologists who want to volunteer for medical missions, and a Haitian hospital that becomes his home base. He is now preparing for his third mission to Haiti.
A specialist volunteer
In January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti. Rob Edelstein, MD, a Boston-based urologist, was glued to the TV. He wanted to do something helpful, beyond sending money, that would use his surgical skills. Four months after the earthquake, Project HOPE sent Edelstein to Hospital Albert Schweitzer in northern Haiti. An already overburdened healthcare system was now caring for several hundred thousand additional people that had barely escaped the earthquake. “There was an incredible need for all kinds of medical services. And urology is always under-represented everywhere,” recalls Edelstein.
A shortage of urologists and equipment
In all of Haiti, there are 24 urologists for a population of 9.7 million. In comparison, in the United States, the population is near 310 million, and between 9,000 and 10,000 urologists, ten times the coverage. Edelstein saw cases he would never see in the United States, “Because nobody was there to fix the underlying problem,” he says. “Unfortunately, a lot of those fixes require the right equipment, and they didn’t have it.” From his first visit to Haiti, Edelstein knew the hospital had only one ultrasound system, the international standard of care for visualizing kidneys and bladders. He had heard about a Siemens device, the handheld ACUSON P10™ ultrasound system. Siemens quickly shipped the unit for Edelstein’s use in Haiti. Edelstein found the ACUSON P10 system simple, user-friendly, and rugged. Another plus: Since few Haitians are obese, ultrasound was an even more efficient diagnostic tool on the Haitian population than in the USA.
A life-changing experience
Two years later, with two medical missions to Haiti behind him and preparing for a third trip in December 2012, Edelstein feels forever changed and thinks that his experience in Haiti made an impact both professionally and personally. “There are a million places in the world that need people to go and volunteer and be helpful,” he says. “But there’s something about Haiti. When you are there, you feel the enormity of what needs to be done, and it felt right to want to go back there and help more.”