When Dr. John Judson traveled to Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in 1968 as part of his surgery residency at Yale University, he did not anticipate how deeply he would come to know Haiti in the fifty years to follow. “Those 3 months influenced everything I did for the rest of my surgical career,” he says.
For the early part of his career, Dr. Judson worked in a general surgery practice near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, later specializing in cardiothoracic surgery.
Once Dr. Judson settled into his surgery career, he made annual trips to Haiti to work with a feeding project in Port-au-Prince and as a volunteer surgeon. He spent one memorable December with his wife and five children in Deschapelles working at the hospital to give some of the staff a break for the holidays. Another year, he took a team of anesthesiologists and surgeons to HAS to help tackle a backlog of hernia surgeries. They met with more than 50 patients, operating on five to six each night.
By 1997, Dr. Judson was involved in a busy thoracic surgery practice in Camp Hill, PA when a unique opportunity presented itself. He agreed to spend two years at HAS as medical director and chief of surgery. His wife became the assistant to Mrs. Mellon and the director of housing, and helped to establish the peace garden. Part of their duties also included hosting dinner parties a few nights each week for visitors – a tradition Mrs. Mellon began.
“Those two years were the busiest, most significant years of our lives,” Mrs. Judson says.
After returning to the U.S., Dr. Judson chose not to go back into full-time practice, but stayed active in the medical field. He worked in the ER at a local hospital, taught graduate students in healthcare administration, and worked part-time as medical director at a community college. A flexible schedule afforded him the time to make frequent trips to Haiti.
When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Dr. Judson was there to help – first to perform surgeries and later to work in the cholera ward. Since then, he has made annual medical trips to the coastal commune, Montrouis, with a team of anesthesiologists, nurses, and surgeons.
Over his lifetime, Dr. Judson has witnessed HAS evolve into a mostly-Haitian staff. He has seen the Haitian government turn over a dozen times, all while Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti has remained decidedly apolitical. He has not only observed but helped to carry out the hospital’s vital work of providing healthcare to the Artibonite.
Time and time again, Haiti has drawn him back. “My heart is in that country,” he says.
We’re grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Judson for their life-long dedication to supporting Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. Through their generosity, they have helped hundreds of Haitians receive necessary surgeries. You, too, can help: please consider making a donation today. For only $300, we can provide one patient with surgical care.