Ever since Hopital Albert Schweitzer opened in 1956, it has opened doors for its students and its professional staff to advance their clinical knowledge. In its earliest days, HAS was staffed primarily by American and European physicians and nurses. Now, all of the permanent physicians and nurses are Haitian, trained at the four excellent medical schools and multiple schools of nursing.
Until recently, there were few opportunities for advanced training for medical school graduates in order to get residency-level experience and certification. As a result, there are relatively few advanced-level specialty physicians in Haiti. At HAS, this gap is addressed each morning at the 7 AM Medical Staff meeting, which features a presentation by a visiting specialist or by one of the Haitian staff or a resident. The audience is composed of all of the medical staff and senior nurses, as well as a pharmacist, laboratorian, and physical therapist. A representative from community health also attends every conference.
This week, Dr. Emma Bendaña, a visiting urologist from New York, made a presentation about urinary retention, a condition which is encountered frequently both in the United States and in Haiti. Her very practical talk provided useful advice about diagnosis of the specific conditions and their causes, and options for managing the condition. She spoke in English, with a translator who synthesized the graphic presentation in French. Other speakers may speak in French, with English titles on their slides.
Because the talk had immediate relevance to the group, they absorbed the information with rapt attention and asked very technical questions. Among the most keenly engaged of the audience were the four new Residents in Social Medicine, who will be at HAS during the next year. They are graduates of medical schools, but will not receive their licenses until they complete a year of public service in a rural environment. They appreciate the chance to be at HAS because of the teaching commitment, as well as the opportunity to experience health care in both the hospital and in the community.
Dr. Bendaña was a member of a team of urological physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists who were at HAS for a week; several weeks previously, an orthopedics team from Atlanta was at HAS to teach, perform complex procedures, and to provide added skills to the HAS surgical team. At least one such team is at HAS almost every month, supporting the local staff and sharing their skills and knowledge. With the assistance of these specialists, HAS can contribute to the development of a new generation of clinicians in Haiti.