Tag Archives: Haiti

Medical Meeting as Performance

The medical meetings I cover are mostly academic exercises, with researchers reporting new data and other experts mulling the data over and trying to decide what it means. But there is another aspect to many meetings, especially the big ones with thousands or even tens of thousands of attendees, that has a decidedly theatrical element. I even know some people who insist on calling these meetings shows, although that’s mostly their exhibit-hall orientation.

No other medical meeting I’ve covered, easily more than 400 in my career, incorporates as much theater and performance as the International AIDS Conferences, which began in 1985 and have been held every other year since 1996. The AIDS Conferences are where conventional meeting science and discussion collides with demonstrations, passions, and flamboyant displays.

At the eighteenth International AIDS Conference, held this week and wrapped up today in Vienna, my vote for the most attention-grabbing and creative theatricality was the Condomize! display that maintained an expansive presence in the middle of the main traffic corridor all week. Volunteers from The Condom Project created condom mosaics on corridor columns, worked beneath billboard-sized condom murals along with a display of air-filled condoms (the better to see the variety of sizes), and had tables laden with thousands of condoms for distribution and for the creation of condom pins.

Other theatrical elements included the Haitian solidary demonstration that took over the podium and launched one morning’s plenary session.

Where else but at the AIDS Conference would you find Annie Lennox co-chairing a plenary session.

all images by Mitchel Zoler

And then there was the most electrifying and anticipated report at this year’s session, last Tuesday afternoon, when researchers from Caprisa reported results from their proof-of-principle clinical study that showed a tenofovir vaginal gel used by women before and after sex cut the rate of new HIV infections by a relative 39% (see my report here). During the course of the hour-long report, the large, packed audience greeted the exciting results with four separate outbursts of applause, ending with a standing ovation at the end of the talk.

Nothing gets more theatrical than a performance received like that.

—Mitchel Zoler (on Twitter @mitchelzoler)

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Filed under Family Medicine, IMNG, Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine

Haitian Earthquake Gives Trauma Surgeon His Time

from the annual meeting of the Surgical Infection Society in Las Vegas 

Dr. Henri R. Ford/photo by Mitchel Zoler

Trauma surgeon Henri R. Ford’s personal history and training fused into a special calling when the earthquake struck Haiti last Jan. 12. Dr. Ford, installed as president of the Surgical Infection Society during the group’s annual meeting earlier this week, used his presidential address to give his colleagues a 45-minute distillation of the experiences and emotions he experienced during the prior 3 months. 

As Dr. Ford noted in detail during his talk, he wasn’t just any surgical volunteer paying a humanitarian call at a disaster site. Henri Ford was born in Port-au-Prince in 1958, and grew up there with his family, living within a few miles of the 2010 epicenter for the next 14 years. After his parents and most of his family moved to New York, Dr. Ford embodied the American success story, getting an Ivy League education, becoming a trauma surgeon with a specialty in managing infectious diseases, and currently serving as chief of surgery at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and professor of surgery at the University of Southern California. He’s also fluent in French and Creole, and has a sister who still lives in Port-au-Prince, who told him  soon after the quake that the situation was “apocalyptic.” 

As Dr. Ford said, he felt “uniquely qualified to respond. 

“I couldn’t help feeling I had spent my first 51 years preparing for such as time as this,” he said in his talk. 

He repeated that phrase, “for such a time as this,” as the theme of his presidential address while he described the devastation and privation he saw, the broken bodies he treated, and the lessons he drew from his experiences. A deeply religious man, he explained that he took the words from Esther 4:14

Dr. Ford first reached Haiti on Jan. 16 and spent 2 weeks working there, and in the subsequent 2.5 months he’s been back for two more 1-week visits, with more return trips planned. A major focus now is working with a coalition of Haitian and U.S. groups to open a National Trauma , Critical Care, and Rehabilitation Hospital in Haiti. 

—Mitchel Zoler (on Twitter @mitchelzoler) 

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Filed under Emergency Medicine, IMNG, Infectious Diseases, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Surgery

Medical Needs Ongoing in Haiti

From the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in South Florida.

Multiple new challenges now face health care providers in Haiti, more than a month since the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Port-au-Prince.  Health care workers who delivered acute care in the days and weeks after the natural disaster–including limb amputations, setting of fractures, and other emergency surgeries–are now shifting their attention to address to hunger, prolonged wound care, and a widespread need for psychoemotional support.

Dr. Andre Vulcain of the University of Miami's Project Haiti; photo by Damian McNamara

Hundreds of thousands of Haitians fled the capital for the provincial towns in the first month post-earthquake, forcing what was a more contained crisis to become multifocal, Dr. Andre Vulcain said. Dr. Vulcain, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Miami, regularly travels back and forth from Miami to Haiti as faculty liaison for the university’s Haiti Project. The project provides assistance to establish family medicine residency programs in that country.

The evolving public health crisis in Haiti includes identification and treatment of people with active tuberculosis (TB). With about 250,000 refugees fleeing Port-au-Prince so far, control of TB and other infectious diseases is one of the major concerns at the moment, Dr. Vulcain said.

A need for physical therapists to help the victims of the earthquake is particularly acute, Dr. Vulcain said. If you are a health care worker who can provide physical therapy or help to address the many other medical needs in Haiti, please leave a comment below. I will forward all serious inquiries directly to Dr. Vulcain.

— Damian McNamara (On Twitter @MedReporter)

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Filed under Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Hospital and Critical Care Medicine, IMNG, Infectious Diseases, Internal Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychiatry, Surgery