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IMR and GOALS Haiti launches partnership


In mid January 2019, a medical team from International Medical Response (IMR) travelled to the Destra community for a training seminar for local healthcare practitioners, followed by a clinic.  The IMR team was comprised of physicians, nurses and EMS techs, with this venture representing the inauguration of what will likely be an on-going collaboration between GOALS and IMR.  This initial trip was highly successful--ten trainees were tapped from the local community to engage in a day-long training seminar, and then assisted with patient care in the following days in the clinic.  Nearly two hundred patients were seen, ranging from eight days old to 97 years, many of whom had rarely seen a physician prior.  IMR also identified a one of the trainees to serve as the local healthcare agent in Destra for follow up care, with remote support from IMR until the planned return in July 2019.   

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In addition to the large number of patients who were cared for at the clinic, we had two big saves that otherwise may have resulted in lives being lost.  As IMR and GOALS continue to work in partnership, we hope to establish an ongoing presence in Destra.  IMR's primary goals are to build a network of healthcare agents on the ground to address the concerns of the community, and to create a triage system by which we can direct patients to the appropriate care they require. 

This would not be possible without the support IMR has received from GOALS; they have been instrumental in providing the guidance required to addressing community needs directly.  We look forward to building on this trip, and creating a reliable service to the people of Destra. 

Jonathan Kaplan MD, Volunteer Physician

Joshua Schiller MD, IMR Medical Director



Dr. Sleemi to join panel at Ensemble Studio Theatre's "Behind the Sheet"

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We are excited to share that IMR’s Executive Director Dr. Sleemi will be joining a panel of experts for a conversation on February 2nd after the 2pm performance of BEHIND THE SHEET. The play, written by Charly Evon Simpson and produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre in NYC, “confronts the history of a great medical breakthrough by telling the forgotten story of a community of enslaved black women who involuntarily enabled the discovery. In 1840s Alabama, Philomena assists a doctor—her owner—as he performs experimental surgeries on her fellow slave women, trying to find a treatment for the painful post-childbirth complications known as fistulas. Reframing the origin story of modern gynecology, the play dramatizes how these women supported each other, and questions who, and what, history remembers.”

We hope you can join us! Click here for more info.



Fistula program in Liberia continues


In November, we returned from our sixth trip to Liberia where our surgery program is going remarkably well. We continue to work with the Liberian Ministry of Health and Dr. John Mulbah, our partner in Monrovia, to provide equipment, training, and care for women suffering with birth injuries and obstetric fistula (OF). OF is a devastating condition that affects almost 2 million women worldwide and it’s estimated that almost 100,000 new cases develop annually. OF is a condition of poverty and neglect and it affects the most marginalized populations: poor women who are pregnant.

Our work in Liberia started in 2015 after the Ebola outbreak and has been remarkably fruitful with over 150 cases done. We’re committed to training Liberian medical residents and surgeons in pelvic reconstructive surgery and fistula repair as these procedures are highly technical and require skilled surgeons. It’s estimated that each case costs $900 to $1000 per patient. These estimates include the operation, transportation, post operative care, food and all medications and equipment. It is our hope that in 2019, with your generous donations, we will continue our work helping in the recovery of at least another 60 women and continue training new young generation of surgeons who will go on to become vital to the medical care of this country.



Updates from Puerto Rico


In October, we returned to Vieques, Puerto Rico for our 4th visit this year to assist with post-hurricane medical care and recovery.  People on Vieques have had extremely limited access to healthcare since Hurricane Maria struck more than a year ago. The IMR team arrived on October 19th, and conducted a two day clinic in Esperanza, where we saw approximately thirty patients.  The team was made up of Drs. Sleemi and Schiller, two Emergency Medicine resident physicians from Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, Drs. Suman Gupta and Cecily Sotomayor, and our colleague Ana Aurrecochea, a surgical nurse from California.

In addition to clinical care, IMR worked in conjunction with local community leaders  to provide home visits for Vieques’ more vulnerable patient population, in which we were able to assess needs and provide appropriate medications and follow up.  

The trip was short and sweet, but  there is still much to do. While Vieques has achieved a measure of stability in its access to healthcare, it’s still experiencing interference in basic infrastructure.  Electrical power is interrupted on a regular basis, putting patients reliant on ventilators at high risk for decompensation, as well as compromising refrigerated food and medications (such as insulin) for the more susceptible patient population.  Please continue your support of IMR so that we can support those who need it most.

Looking forward to a productive 2019!



Haitian Women's Collaborative Project Update


This past September, IMR returned to Haiti for our third trip this year continuing our pelvic surgery training initiative: the Haitian Women's Collaborative Project. This trip was full of many highlights including operating on 15 patients alongside our Haitian colleagues and students, introducing our new volunteer Amaris Lunde to our care team in Haiti, being interviewed by Radio Television Caraibes, and an invitation for our Executive Director Dr. Ambereen Sleemi to join the Haitian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SHOG) as an honorary member.

The week started at St. Boniface Hospital in southern Haiti, operating and caring for women with pelvic organ prolapse (a condition where one or more of the pelvic organs like the uterus or bladder drop to or through the vagina), vesicovaginal fistulas (a hole that forms in the vaginal wall), and more. Since 2014, we've worked with Haitian OB/GYN resident physicians at St. Boniface, National, and Croix des Bouquet Hospitals as part of their training program to increase their surgical skills. Our focus continues to be on improving a surgeon’s skills using a minimally invasive approach that leads to fewer complications and quicker recovery for our patients and implementing initiatives to increase patient safety in the Operating Room. IMR volunteer Amaris Lunde, a Nurse Practitioner from Portland, OR, assisted and trained Haitian nurses caring for patients in the post-operative period. Senior OB/GYN resident physicians from Port au Prince joined us for the week for training. We then traveled to Port au Prince, joining our longtime local partner Dr. Batsch. Together, we operated on women with obstetric fistula (a hole that forms between the vaginal wall and rectum or bladder due to prolonged, obstructed labor), again focusing on surgical techniques, patient safety, perioperative care and more.

Dr. Batsch and Dr. Sleemi with Radio Television Caraibes

Dr. Batsch and Dr. Sleemi with Radio Television Caraibes

In between their busy schedule operating on patients, Dr. Batsch and Dr. Sleemi were interviewed by Radio Television Caraibes, one of the oldest and most popular Haitian broadcasters, about maternal health, birth complications and obstetric fistula. Many women with fistulas and other pelvic floor disorders suffer silently so the chance to inform the public about these devastating conditions was an opportunity not to be missed. We continued our campaign to raise awareness by meeting with UNFPA Haiti (United Nations Populations Fund) to discuss how to assess prevalence of fistula and pelvic floor disorders in Haiti.

Finally, we would like to congratulate Dr. Sleemi, our Executive Director, who received an official invitation to be an honorary member of the Haitian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SHOG), the professional organization for all OB/GYNs in Haiti. This honor is a reflection of her passion and continued dedication to caring for women of Haiti.