When a massive earthquake shook Haiti on Jan.12, NYIT community members quickly responded to the tragedy, which claimed the lives of more than 230,000 people and left at least 300,000 injured.
Edward Cho, assistant professor of emergency medicine at NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYCOM) and associate director of NYIT’s Center for Global Health, led the effort by linking NYCOM, Continuum Health Partners, and the Global Action Foundation to facilitate medical support services in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince from Jan. 16 to 22.
Being at the forefront of the disaster had a powerful effect. “Death was everywhere,” says Cho. “Crush injuries, amputations, and other wounds required immediate attention. Communications were down, and travel was almost impossible.”
In the months since, Cho remains involved in relief efforts. He continues to work closely with Doctors United for Haiti and Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in creating a database that matches health providers in Port-au-Prince with volunteers who include doctors, nurses, and engineers. The project also creates opportunities for NYCOM residents and medical students to get involved with onsite rotations and research.
NYIT alumni also lent a hand. Father Rick Frechette (D.O. ’98), a physician, priest, and community organizer based in Haiti, is the founder of the St. Damien children’s hospital in Port-au-Prince. In the aftermath of the earthquake, four of Frechette’s former NYCOM classmates—Scott Bomann (D.O. ’98), Yanick Vibert (D.O. ’98), Tish Tweedie (D.O. ’98), and Robert Ferris (D.O. ’98)—flew to Haiti to assist patients at Frechette’s hospital.
The NYIT graduate remains busy with relief efforts, which include surgeries, producing prosthetics, food distribution, and taking care of 1,200 displaced children. “What sticks with you is the massiveness of the injuries,” he says. “Almost everybody that we know has lost family. We’ve lost employees, and we’ve had kids who grew up with us that were killed.”
At NYIT campuses worldwide, students and staff held several events, including fundraisers and blood drives, and established an NYIT Facebook page with links to international relief agencies as well as ways for community members to reach out to family and friends in Haiti.
For many, NYIT’s efforts hit home. “I was born and raised in Haiti,” says Robinson Despeignes, associate director of international education at NYIT-Manhattan. “Haiti is very dear to me especially since my relatives are still living there. I was very impressed by the NYIT community, which demonstrated the spirit of brotherly love at a time when we really needed it.”