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Oct 10 2011
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700 Miles Away: A New View of U.S. Health Care

Sidney Coupet, DO, MPH, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan, is the founder and executive director of Doctors United for Haiti. Read more about his work on the RWJF Human Capital website.

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Did you know the average Haitian physician sees about 100 patients a day? Can you imagine if your doctor had to see 100 patients a day? Trust me, remembering your name would be the least of her problems! In a country with rampant chronic and infectious diseases, the poor health state – and an ambiguous health care system – can be overwhelming for Haitian health care professionals. Many of them leave the country in hopes of a better career and life.

But simultaneously, an overwhelming number of U.S. physicians are traveling to the shores of Haiti. They’re providing humanitarian aid and lifting a burden, intervening before Haitian health care professionals decide to flee their own country.

And they’re doing it through Doctors United For Haiti, an organization I started in 2006 to help my parents’ native country.

Doctors United For Haiti (DUFH) has created an academic environment in which both American and Haitian health care professionals benefit. Our program creates an opportunity for doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, mental health professionals and health administrators to share and exchange knowledge in a non-threatening environment. This academic approach was created as an opportunity to empower, educate and support Haitian health care professionals as they deliver quality care to their own people.

Simultaneously, it provides opportunities for American health care professionals to receive global health training. While this model is obviously providing opportunities for improvement in Haiti, our doctors will return with skills that will save our own system money and make it run more efficiently.

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