Neurologists in Haiti: Neurologic Treatment Vital to 'Waves of Patients'

January 30, 2010


Anthony G. Alessi, MD, FAAN, arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on January 28, as part of an international effort to bring medical aid to the island, following the devastating January 12 earthquake. Having served in Haiti three times over the past 16 months as part of a medical team dispatched by the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF), Alessi brings a valuable first-hand knowledge of the challenges doctors face in the country, above and beyond his expertise as a neurologist. As time allows, he will report on his experience working in Haiti during this critical period.

Leaving his home in Norwich, CT, last week, Alessi was unsure of what he would find on his fourth trip to Haiti: "I expect that the situation will be very basic, that we’ll be living in tents, and bringing in our own food wherever we go." Even though he is carrying his own phone and computer, the lack of reliable power sources might make staying in contact with colleagues back home difficult.

Alessi at a field hospital run by St. Damien's Hospital, Port-au-Prince.

Alessi and Mill Etienne MD, MPH, CPH, on flight deck of USNS Comfort. According to Alessi: "Etienne is a neurologist and colleague—what a place to meet!"

After arriving in Port-au-Prince, Alessi reported directly to St. Damien's Hospital. There, he only had time to secure his luggage and prepare for treating patients. The need for neurologists became clear the minute his group was introduced to the hospital coordinator: "I hear you have a neurologist in the group—we need you."

He compared the hospital area itself to a MASH (mobile army surgical hospital) unit, "with waves of patients."

Alessi continued, "Neurologists are and will be needed in Haiti, and in regions experiencing crises like this. It is a great experience for anyone who wishes to try."

Aerial view of devastation.

Read previous articles in this series: