Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Feinberg’s Center for Global Health wins award for Haiti aid

Like many Americans, Dr. Shannon Galvin felt struck by the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

“After the earthquake, like everyone else I was driving to work and thought, ‘This is terrible. I wish there was something I could do,'” Galvin said. “Then ‘I was like, ‘Actually, I’m the director of the Center for Global Health. Maybe I can do something.'”

Galvin, an associate director at the Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Global Health, met with her colleagues about funneling NU medical volunteers to groups already working in Haiti. However, she said officials at the Center worried an immediate response might do more harm than good.

“It became apparent that if we sent five people down in a plane, it wouldn’t be a very organized response because it was chaos,” Galvin said. “All of a sudden everybody wanted to charter a plane and get down there. And if you did that, you’re not sure that the people and the supplies that you’re sending to Haiti were actually needed.”

Their solution? The formation of the Chicago Medical Consortium for Haiti Relief , which has been invited to accept the DuSable Heritage Award for its work in Haiti at a ceremony March 5.

The Consortium is a collaboration of NU, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Children’s Memorial Hospital and the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County. Together, these institutions created a roster of 475 medical volunteers to send in teams of seven to organizations in Haiti for two-week rotations, Galvin said.

Carolyn Baer, the deputy director for the Center for Global Health, said the Consortium dealt more with organization than on-the-ground relief.

“We partnered with a variety of non-governmental organizations that were already on the ground,” she said. “When the earthquake happened, we just kind of reacted. We pulled together as a great resource within Chicago. We are a group of very strong medical institutions that have supplies and train staff to volunteer for two weeks, and we have the personal finances to go down there and provide services.”

The Consortium donated up to $50,000 in medical supplies and deployed 158 volunteers to Haiti’s University and Educational Hospital in Port-au-Prince from January to July 2010, Galvin said.

“Their model is based on getting medical volunteers for short-term stays,” Galvin said of the International Medical Corps, the NGO operating at HUEH. “So they were ideally suited to helping a large number of volunteers from Chicago.”

Although the weekly deployments are over, Galvin said the Consortium is working with a task force created by the Haitian and U.S. governments to rebuild the Haitian health system and “transition from this emergency response phase to an ongoing partnership to support development.” In addition, NU volunteers returned to Haiti during the cholera outbreak.

“It was overwhelming how many people wanted to volunteer in some capacity,” Baer said.

Galvin said it is difficult to numerically measure the Consortium’s success.

“All the lives that were saved by the 153 people that went down there, I can’t even count,” she said.

She said the relief effort has also broadened understanding of global health in general.

“Now we have 475 people in the Chicago area that are ambassadors to our neighbors in Haiti,” Galvin said.

The DuSable Heritage Association, a nonprofit that promotes Haitian education and culture in Chicago, will celebrate these efforts at the Annual DuSable Heritage Award Fundraiser at the U.S. Cellular Center, according to a Center for Global Health press release. While Galvin clarified that the Center and the Consortium have been invited to the ceremony but have not yet officially received the award, she said doing so would be an honor.

“The award is from Haitian Americans themselves,” she said, “so I would value that more than anything else.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Feinberg’s Center for Global Health wins award for Haiti aid