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January 20, 2010

Responding to Haiti

It has now been more than one week since the island nation of Haiti was devastated by a catastrophic earthquake. Millions have been affected by the quake, including many relatives and friends of Health Center employees, and a massive, international response effort is now in full force, despite limited supplies and other challenges.

From Farmington, it is almost unfathomable to imagine the conditions in Haiti today and the toll of this disaster. But I am very proud to say that the Health Center is actively involved in the response. One of our own, Robert Fuller, M.D., Director of the Emergency Department, left last Wednesday to provide medical assistance in concert with the International Medical Corps. Dr. Fuller, who also responded to the World Trade Center on September 11 and the tsunami in late 2004, is serving as an interim director of emergency medicine and is expected to be in Haiti for at least another week. Our thoughts and prayers are with Rob during this extremely difficult task.

I encourage all to learn more about Dr. Fullerís trip, and to watch his recent interview with CNNís Wolf Blitzer, on the Health Centerís news page: http://today.uchc.edu/features/2010/jan10/fuller/index.html.

While it is in our nature to help, the situation in Haiti is still quite unsettled. Damage to infrastructure is slowing the response of professional relief organizations. Discussions with relief organizations like the Red Cross have made it clear that monetary donations are the most critical donation at this point. I encourage you to give generously to the charity of your choice. Several charities accept text donations and many charities accept on-line contributions; it cannot be easier to donate.

For those with selected skill sets, the American Association of Medical Colleges has appealed to all U.S. academic medical centers, seeking physicians who are also able to volunteer in Haiti. There is a particular need for trauma specialists, orthopedists and anesthesiologists. More information about this drive, including credentialing information, can be obtained by contacting Michala Koch (Michala.Koch@hhs.gov) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Otherwise, volunteerism by individuals lacking prior disaster relief experience is being discouraged for the time being.

All Health Center employees (faculty and staff) who are interested in volunteering should contact Jessica Van Alstyne in Human Resources (jvanalstyne@uchc.edu, or 860-679-3073) regarding leave policies. Medical, dental and graduate students can e-mail my office with requests regarding volunteering at VPHA@uchc.edu.

The Red Cross has not yet made arrangements to deliver blood to Haiti, but we will arrange to have a blood drive at the Health Center to support that effort when they are ready.

And remember, there are other ways to help the relief effort. As we mentioned last week, the Health Center has a strong, 22-year history with the Haitian Health Foundation. Collections for the Haitian Health Foundation have begun throughout the Health Center.

Again, thank you to all who have shared your concerns and expressed your interest to help the people of Haiti. This tragedy has shaken all of us but has shown that compassion can lead to powerful results.

Sincerely,

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, School of Medicine