As reports come into the United States of thousands dead and millions more in need of medical treatment and basic staples in Haiti, not surprisingly, ASA members have asked how they might assist those in need. ASA is reaching out to established, reputable relief organizations so that we may assist in communicating their needs for anesthesiology volunteers at whatever time may be beneficial. We will use www.asahq.org as a mechanism to make those needs known to our membership on a real time basis. Please visit this page to obtain updates on volunteer opportunities for anesthesiologists in Haiti.
A Physician’s Calling
As physicians we are driven to support those in need. However, with any disaster, there are key considerations for the relief team, and the experts in disaster relief at ASA want to make sure we are careful where we donate our time and skills in a disaster situation. ASA’s Committee on Trauma and Emergency Preparedness (Chair Peter J. Dunbar, M.D. and Kelly A. McQueen, M.D.) asks that we keep the following points in mind:
Rescue and Recovery is Top Priority - After an earthquake, it is estimated that about 15 percent of survivors will need surgery, and few (but some) of the surgical needs are urgent or emergent. Most of the immediate needs relate to rescuing survivors and recovering the dead. Physicians without specific disaster medicine skills will not be in great demand for a while.
Work with an Established Organization - Despite good intentions, showing up on site without the support of a reputable, well-organized relief group can put a medical professional’s life at risk. There is much unrest in a disaster zone, and the potential for harm is great. There are limited basic resources such as food and shelter. You want your work to make a difference. Please connect any efforts with an established group who can support you throughout the journey.
Donations Make a Tremendous Difference - There are many organizations already in Haiti who have survived and are poised to deliver additional aid. A substantial U.S. military response is underway. ASA provides a list below of some major organizations, all of whom will benefit from financial contributions. In the near term, the greatest impact you can make will be through supporting the organizations already on the ground.
Help Is Needed Long Term - In the weeks and months following, planning trips with established organizations to rebuild hospitals and improve surgical infrastructure will be valuable. Most disasters are forgotten within weeks, and most of the work essential to helping such a desperate population will be needed for months and years to come.
ASA is appreciative of our members’ tremendous philanthropic spirit. May we all use this time to reflect on all we have, and to support those in need.
Alexander A. Hannenberg, M.D.