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Building A Hospital In Haiti

Partners in Health is building a state-of-the-art teaching medical facility in Mirebalais in Haiti’s underserved Central Plateau.

My niece Annie helped design the waste and water treatment systems of the project as part of her engineering internship with Northeastern University, and will be joining the Partners in Health group upon graduation. It’s so inspiring to see this wonderful project coming to fruition and to know that she’ll be part of it.

You can be part of it, too, by donating, volunteering or, like Annie, working for Partners in Health.

Partners in Health was founded by Dr. Paul Farmer and colleagues in 1987 to serve the poor in Haiti. Dr. Farmer’s story is the subject of Tracy Kidder’s new book “Mountains Beyond Mountains: One Doctor’s Quest to Heal the World.”

[Editor's note: Also see the NPR article "The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer."]

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

Realistic Medicine: The Kind To Look For

There are several stages in becoming an empowered, engaged, activated patient — a capable, responsible partner in getting good care for yourself, your family, whoever you’re caring for. One ingredient is to know what to expect, so you can tell when things seem right and when they don’t.

Researching a project today, I came across an article* published in 2006: ”Key Learning from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s 10-Year Patient Safety Journey.” This table shows the attitude you’ll find in an organization that has realized the challenges of medicine and is dealing with them realistically:

Table of before and after thinking about safety and quality at Dana Farber

“Errors are everywhere.” “Great care in a high-risk environment.” What kind of attitude is that? It’s accurate.

This work began after the death of Boston Globe health columnist Betsy Lehman. Long-time Bostonians will recall that she was killed in 1994 by an accidental overdose of chemo at Dana-Farber. It shocked us to realize that a savvy patient like her, in one of the best places in the world, could be killed by such an accident. But she was.

Five years later the Institute of Medicine’s report “To Err is Human” documented that such errors are in fact common — 44,000 to 98,000  a year. It hasn’t gotten better: Last November the U.S. Inspector General released new findings that 15,000 Medicare patients are killed in U.S. hospitals every month. That’s one every three minutes. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Inside A Haitian Medical Clinic

Dr. Jon LaPook visits one of Haiti’s medical clinics nearly three months after the country’s devastating earthquake:

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Small Miracles In Haiti

Seven days ago, at a mission in the north of Haiti, I watched a nurse remove oxygen from a premature baby boy in order to give it to a woman in labor. The heartbeat of the baby who was about to be delivered had dropped dangerously low and there was only one working oxygen machine.

Perhaps the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck or there was some other problem. A Caesarian section — which can quickly and safely deliver a baby who is in trouble — was not an option. The public hospital was at least an hour’s drive away over bumpy roads.

These kinds of cruel triage decisions are commonplace in Haiti and existed long before the earthquake struck on January 12th. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has never had an effective public health system. Thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — by some counts more than 10,000 — are trying to plug holes in the ship. What’s really needed is a new ship. Read more »

Audio: What Is Needed Most In Haiti Now? Live Report From Hospital In Port Au Prince


Dr. Paul Auerbach And Injured Haitian Boy

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the author of the definitive textbook on Wilderness Medicine. Though he’s spent his entire emergency medicine career teaching others how to survive in the wild, even that didn’t fully prepare him for the extraordinary devastation in Haiti. He’d never seen anything like it. He hopes he never does again.

In an exclusive Skype interview with Better Health, Paul describes what it was like “on the ground” during the first week of the disaster. He goes on to explain (in part 2 below) what the current critical needs are, and which organizations and websites volunteers should go to in order to contribute in a coordinated fashion.

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Dr. Val: Do you need supplies?

Dr. Auerbach: We have lots of medications, vaccines, and small supplies. What we need most is a large autoclave to sterilize used OR equipment. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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