Today, on HAS’ 64th anniversary, we celebrate all the wonderful people who have passed through the doors of the hospital. Doctors, nurses, patients, donors, and volunteers have come together, bridging cultures, making HAS the strong, vibrant community it is today.
Thank you to all who have been a part of the enduring success of this hospital in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley. You have believed in the mission of HAS and joined us in building a health system that today provides jobs to 500+ Haitians and quality, compassionate healthcare to thousands of people every year.
Some of our long-time supporters share their favorite memories of HAS and the hospital’s lasting impact on their lives:
Dr. Jim Fett
HAS is one of the most important institutions in my life. I served as Medical Director from 1984 to 1986. I had the privilege to relate often with the Founders, Gwen & Larry Mellon, and to provide medical care to Larry Mellon in his late-life illness. He was one of the most humble persons I ever had the privilege to know. His watchword was always “We are here to serve.” He lived that example. I also had the privilege to return to HAS from 1997 to 2006, to work on the investigation of pregnancy-associated heart failure, called peripartum cardiomyopathy or PPCM. Haiti has a high incidence of this disease, one of the highest in the world. PPCM mothers coming to HAS for medical care helped our research to identify ways to reduce mortality and improve recovery. Out of that came many medical journal publications. HAS remains one of the most important aspects of my life, and I am privileged to help a bit in its mission. Thank you, HAS Haiti!
Dr. Lee Merrill Jampol
I was a Yale ophthalmology resident when I came to HAS for 3 months about 1973. We had our own house and help with the cooking and upkeep. I saw many patients and did much surgery. I had dinner with Gwen Mellon the night before we left but she was omnipresent overseeing everything. My dad, a cardiologist, came to visit and worked with the medical team for a week.
Here are some of my memories: the horrible rutted road from St Marc, my incredibly helpful technician. Almost all the patients were thin. There was a lot of infectious eye disease, especially gonorrhea, and a lot of corneal disease from vitamin A deficiency and measles. When my dad came into the operating room he hid in the corner as he had never seen eye surgery. I remember the Olaffson hotel, the rich hill top part of town, Petionville, with an air conditioned hotel and a great pool, the castle on the north shore, the tiny horses, the games of chance nearby, the soldiers at the checkpoints, and the good humor and wonderful people of Haiti.
I was 21 (I’m now 80) when I arrived with my husband and six week old daughter at HAS for two years. We instantly fell in love with the Mellons, the hospital, the Haitians and Haiti. I volunteered in the hospital three days a week, most of the time in the pediatric clinics. Two years later our second daughter would be born at HAS.
Through the years we made many trips back to HAS to see old friends and support the hospital. It will always be a very important part of my life, and I am proud to have been a small part of HAS’s early years and known both Dr. and Mme. Mellon.
Dr. Richard Dutton
I started at HAS in about 1964 during my 2nd year in Yale’s surgical residency. At that time, HAS was staffed by Dr. Mellon and a board-certified surgeon who mentored and taught me. Dr. Mellon was most hospitable.
I learned a lot and was able to take many of my practical experiences at HAS back to my peers in the Yale residency. I remember getting called after midnight to operate on a young man who had been in a car that rolled over. A tree limb went through his belly. That’s the kind of care that would not have been available anywhere else in that part of Haiti at the time.
Over the years to follow, I came back annually for 1-2 weeks for almost two decades, usually accompanied by my wife, Sarah. Four of our five kids accompanied us – worked in the pharmacy or other areas. One has been back on his own as an anesthesiologist. The experience has been a big part of our lives.
I worked as a volunteer physician 30 years ago. It was an unforgettable experience, and I am happy to get news of the hospital and old friends who are still in touch.
I worked in the microbiology department. Mr. and Mrs. Mellon were there all the time. I appreciate the opportunity to work there.
I made two work-team visits to HAS, both organized through Canadian Friends of HAS. On my second visit, we stayed in the Alumni House — a gladsome return for me as one of my final tasks during the first visit, was carrying furniture into the newly-completed Alumni House. On this occasion I was the team leader, and was also a member of the Board at CFHAS. Our visit was scheduled for October 2010 — half a year after the earthquake and just as the cholera outbreak was taking full hold.
When we arrived, the process of adapting the old “boutique” into the cholera treatment centre was just beginning. One of our team was a pipefitter/plumber by trade. He along with a younger man on our team, played a leading role over the next 2 weeks, establishing the water supply into that building. Another of our team was a fully-qualified RN. She nursed non-stop for the full 2 weeks, and her doing so gave courage to many of the HAS nurses who were hesitant about nursing that disease. Another of our team was by profession, a lactation consultant. As such, she was familiar with and comfortable in, clinical settings. She also had the advantage of having grown up in Montreal so her French-language skills soon adapted to Kreol. She immediately became former CEO’s Ian Rawson’s scribe and right hand, preparing for him daily summaries. As well, she spent many hours each day bringing water to the patients, which earned her the nickname “madame B’we”. (she still has that name tag among her mementos!) So our skilled tradespeople and professionals were well occupied.
Ian Rawson also had an urgent task for me and my wife, Lilian. HAS had received in the space of just a very few weeks, multiple shipments from many and varied sources, donations of pharmaceutical and other supplies. Ian needed an inventory of these, and fast! So this became our task, but without the advantage of spreadsheets. Our final two members, a professional photographer/videographer and his wife focused their time creating a visual record of the campus and its activities. Our team left in mid-November confident of having made a significant contribution to the efforts of HAS to bring life-giving care to the people of the Artibonite.
Have you been to HAS? Share your memories in the comments below or submit your story here.