Tuesday, January 26, 2010

News from Phuoc in Haiti (courtesy of Erin Jones-Le)

Dear friends,

(Read below for your invitation to meet Erin at Gallery One.)

A quick update on Phuoc in Haiti...

He now has a local phone, so I have had a couple brief conversations with him over the past couple days. He sounds like he's in good spirits, but tired. He's only getting three to four hours of sleep each night, but is eating well.

Here is an excerpt from an email Phuoc sent me from PAP on the morning of Jan. 23:

"Driving through the city makes your heart sink to its lowest depths. Seeing the toppled presidential palace with thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camping across the street makes you wonder what further can be done to break a nation's spirit. The hospital is guarded by dozens of soldiers with big guns, walking through the wards and operating rooms (ORs) on their security detail. More later."

Right now, Phuoc's main job is to coordinate the transfer of the most critically-ill patients from the PIH clinics/hospitals to the US Navy's Comfort ship. He has been picking up patients, and accompanying them for the bumpy ride to the helicopter pad at the port. From there, the the US military transfers them to the ship via helicopter. As of last night, this morning's task was to transfer nine patients from Cange to the port. He was working hard to hopefully arrange helicopter rides directly from Cange, to spare the patients (especially those with spinal cord injuries) from having to endure the pain and discomfort of a much longer ride.

Let's hope the helicopter transfer happened this morning! Phuoc says that another ship with 1000 beds is scheduled to arrive in about 10 days, coming from the West Coast of the US.

Our friend, Natasha, (another PIH doc) has been put in charge of coordinating the work of all the PIH volunteers. The first shift of volunteers is leaving, and the second wave is transitioning in. Not an easy job, as she is a cultural and language translator, along with the go-to person for the volunteers. I spoke with Natasha briefly yesterday, and as always, she was extremely positive and in good spirits.

Thank you for continuing to keep Phuoc, the other volunteers, and most importantly, the people in Haiti in your thoughts and prayers.

Kenbe fem,


You are invited to meet Erin Jones-Le, Saturday, February 6, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gallery One

Gallery One has a history of working with non-profits to raise funds. Over the years, we have assisted in raising thousands of dollars for organizations as diverse as Mentor Top 25, Western Reserve Riding for the Handicapped, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Ronald McDonald House along with churches, temples, women's leagues, medical associations, schools, parks, philharmonic and symphony associations, zoos, humane societies and more.

So when our eldest granddaughter Erin Jones-Le (who was raised in Mentor) called us to ask for a special birthday gift (she turns 29 in February), we said yes without hesitation. You see, her request was not for clothing or electronic equipment. It was simply for an opportunity to return to her hometown to meet with as many locals as possible to talk about Haiti and the work of Partners in Health, the organization that for nearly 25 years has worked to improve health conditions in a country that has endured decades of poverty and political violence.

I first heard of Partners in Health when Erin’s husband sought a Harvard residency. Born in Vietnam, educated at Dartmouth, Berkeley and Stanford, Phuoc Le (MD, MPH) was an outstanding student and had already taken every possible opportunity to assist those without access to adequate health care - in the states. Tibet, China and beyond. His impressive resume would have easily gained him a residency anywhere in the country. But he wanted to work at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He wanted to join Partners in Health and participate in the efforts of its co-founder, Paul Farmer, PhD, MD, Harvard professor, and Brigham attending physician.

Through its collaboration with the Brigham, Partners in Health had long selected a handful of residents from each class to become Global Health Equity residents and join PIH in its admirable pursuits. Dr. Farmer and the board did select Phuoc to be a Global Health Equity resident, and for the next several years, Phuoc traveled to Haiti, Rwanda, Lesotho and Malawi, helping locals set up medical facilities that would hopefully be self-sustaining.

After learning about the destruction and grave need in Haiti, Phuoc and Erin prepared for Phuoc to leave for Port au Prince. Erin and Phuoc knew that, because of its long-standing presence throughout Haiti and its reputation for operating on a human rights framework, PIH would be pushed to unimaginable limits.

So Phuoc quickly altered his residency schedule and mentally prepared (if possible) to help.

In the meantime, Erin shopped for requested medical supplies - and beef jerky, nuts, cans of tuna and granola bars...knowing that those might be Phuoc’s only rations for the next few weeks.

On January 20, Phuoc left for the Domican Republic, where he picked up a new PIH vehicle and drove to Port au Prince with whatever supplies he could carry.

Now, as Erin reads his text messages and works to keep his spirits (and hers) up, she continues to volunteer for PIH....thanking generous donors and helping to spread the word of Haiti’s needs.

So back to what Erin wants for her birthday. She simply asked for Gallery One to open its doors to her friends and friends of her family...and their friends and associates. And to Gallery One’s friends...and their friends and associates.
So on Saturday, February 6 from 11-2, Gallery One will host a birthday bash for Erin Jones-Le...open to the public. Erin will show a film on the work of Partners in Health and share messages from Phuoc and other PIH members.

Please join us.

Perhaps you or your friends will feel moved to write a check (or make a credit card donation on the PIH website) to Partners in Health or to other organizations that work in Haiti. Or perhaps you just want to be more informed. Or just show your support to the thousands of volunteers who are working to help Haitians rebuild their shattered lives.

Hoping to see you on February 6.

Norah Lynne Brown (grandmother and Gallery One founder)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

iphone message from Phuoc

Driving through the city makes your heart sink to its lowest depths. Seeing the toppled presidential palace with thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camping across the street makes you wonder what further can be done to break a nation's spirit. The hospital is guarded by dozens of soldiers with big guns, walking through the wards and operating rooms (ORs) on their security detail. More later.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Phuoc in Haiti - courtesy of Erin Jones-Le

Phuoc arrived in Santo Domingo, DR on Tuesday evening. He and another person from Partners in Health (PIH) were greeted by Clinton Foundation representatives. They picked up two new trucks for PIH, filled them with supplies, and drove across the border (see photo at left) on Wednesday.

They were to stop at PIH sites in Belladere and Cange on their way to Port au Prince. Phuoc spent Wednesday night at a UN tent camp, one mile from the PAP airport.

He met a medical group that came from California on Mel Gibson's private jet. He also met up with our dear friend, Natasha, who is in the same year of the Global Health Equity Residency (collaboration between the Brigham Hospital and PIH). Natasha arrived on Wednesday with a group of medical professionals, via a chartered flight from Boston to PAP. She is Haitian-American, and I am sure that she is providing much-needed cultural/language translation and coordination on the ground.

This morning Phuoc felt a small aftershock around 8 am before leaving for the general hospital (HUEH) in PAP. I can't imagine the mental anguish each aftershock brings to the survivors as they relive the emotions of the January 12 earthquake. Please keep them in your prayers, and pray for Phuoc and Natasha's strength as they will certainly witness deep levels of pain and struggle.

For those of you who would like to help with the relief efforts in Haiti, I'd like to tell you a bit about PIH and their work in Haiti: PIH has been in Haiti for over 20 years, and has built up numerous health centers (clinics and hospitals) throughout Haiti. PIH operates with a rights-based approach, and aims for sustainability (just before the earthquake, their facilities were mostly run by Haitian medical professionals). Several days ago, the World Health Organization asked PIH to revive and operate the general hospital where Phuoc is working. PIH's overhead cost is less than six percent (6%), and their head honchos don't make the six-figure salaries enjoyed by heads of other charitable organizations. (I encourage people to check out sites like http://www.charitynavigator.org/ to learn where your money goes in various organizations.)

PIH's approach has been supported publicly by numerous celebrities (i.e. Madonna, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Mel Gibson, etc.), and a chunk of the proceeds from tonight's TV concert will go to PIH.

For more information on PIH, go to http://www.pih.org/. Or, if you have more time, I recommend reading Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains," which covers the story of Paul Farmer, the foundation of PIH, and the organization's relationship with and work in Haiti.

We all thank you for your concern and your help.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Email from Phuoc Le, MD, MPH en Route to Haiti

Dearest Family and Friends,

...Just minutes from boarding AA flight 2087 to Santo Domingo, the first leg of my journey to Port-Au-Prince, my post-call. Three-hours-of-sleep...my mind wanders to the visuals of August 2007 when I first was in Haiti on an orientation trip with Partners In Health. At that time, I remember chastizing myself for being so unimaginably oblivious to the plight and endless endurance of our neighbors, living barely an hour's flying time from Miami.

I wrote the following in an short article several years ago detailing an experience in the Haitian Central Plateau:

"It was the fourth day of our weeklong introduction to Zanmi Lasante (ZL), the Partners in Health sister organization in Haiti. At five in the morning, we set out to conduct a day-long mobile clinic at a remote hilltop village called Gwo Moulen. When we finally reached the clinic site, the village leaders had already assembled several hundred people of all ages, patiently waiting under a relentless sun, to receive services like vaccinations, family planning and general medical consultation. The ZL doctors informed us that, for some of the villagers, this was their first encounter with any health care provider aside from traditional healers. For the next several hours, we separated into small groups of doctors with interpreters, frantically interviewing, examining, counseling and prescribing. We worked at a frenzied pace with more patient volume in one hour than we would see in a day back in Boston. By the time we started trekking back down the mountain in the late afternoon, we had served nearly eight hundred people."

The devastation brought on by the earthquake has now informed billions across our planet of the centuries long struggle and unending resilience of the Haitian people. I feel humbled and privileged to be able to work and learn side by side with our neighbors. Please visit www.pih.org for frequent updates and ways you can help. I will try to send messages when possible.

In solidarity,

20 Jan 2010 11:14:43

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haitian Update

Phuoc in Haiti - update courtesy of Erin Jones-Le
(see earlier blog for info about Phuoc and Partners in Health)

Phuoc got a flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for tomorrow (Wed.) at 11:45 am. It's a straight 4-hour flight. He'll stay there overnight, then will catch a bus (6-10 hours) to the Haitian border town of Belladere, where Partners in Health (PIH) operates a medical facility. I am sure that he will be on a plane full of people involved in Haiti relief, so my bet is that he will link up with them and travel to Haiti with a team. PIH reports that they have 13 operating rooms open in Port au Prince, and that things are going well for them. Not sure if they will send Phuoc there or not...the needs seem to be constantly changing!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti - We Can Help!

The following email is from my grandson-in-law, Phuoc V. Le, MD, MPH.

(Born in Vietnam, Dr. Phuoc V. Le's family settled in northern California. At Dartmouth, he double majored in Biochemistry and Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures. Experiences in China, Bosnia and Costa Rica as an undergraduate formed the foundation of Dr. Le's passion for global health equity. He graduated from the Stanford Medical School, and also earned a Master's of Public Health with a focus on International Health at UC Berkeley. Currently, Dr. Le is a resident in Global Health Equity, Pediatrics and Internal Medicine at Harvard Medical School. As part of his residency, he spends a significant amount of his time working in Sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti, in collaboration with Partners in Health. Phuoc is married to our eldest granddaughter, Erin Jones.)

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm sure most of you have heard already of the devastating earthquake in Haiti that has caused massive destruction. I was in Port-Au-Prince just two years ago, and am scheduled to go back in March for a six-week stay. I pray that I will be able to be of use to the people there.

At this time, I ask for your thoughts and prayers for the victims of this disaster. In addition, if you are able, I encourage you to donate to Partners in Health, an organization that I work for, to help in their relief efforts. Partners in Health as been working in Haiti for over 20 years, and is currently mobilizing a large scale relief effort.

Please see the e-mail below to find out how you can donate. Thank you so much.


All the best,

Dear Phuoc and Friends,

Over the past 18 hours, the Partners In Health staff in Boston and Haiti have been working to collect as much information as possible about the conditions on the ground, the relief efforts taking shape and all relevant logistics issues in order to respond efficiently and effectively to the most urgent needs in the field. At the moment, PIH's Chief Medical Officer is on her way to Haiti, where she will meet with Zanmi Lasante leadership and head physicians, who are already working to ensure PIH's coordinated relief efforts leveraging the skills of more than 120 doctors and nearly 500 nurses and nursing assistants who work at Zanmi Lasante's sites.

We have already begun to implement a two-part strategy to address the immediate need for emergency medical care in Port-au-Prince. First, we are organizing the logistics to get the medical staff and supplies needed for setting up field hospital sites in Port-au-Prince where we can triage patients, provide emergency care, and send those who need surgery or more complex treatment to our functioning hospitals and surgical facilities. To do this, we are creating a supply chain through the Dominican Republic. Second, we are ensuring that our facilities in the Central Plateau are ready to serve the flow of patients from Port-au-Prince. Operating and procedure rooms are staffed, supplied and equipped for surgeries and we have converted a church in Cange into a large triage area. Already our sites in Cange and Hinche are reporting a steady flow of people coming with medical needs from the capital city. In the days that come we will need to make sure our pharmacies and supplies stay stocked and our staff continue to be able to respond.

Currently, our greatest need is financial support.

Haiti is facing a crisis worse than it has seen in years, and it is a country that has faced years of crisis, both natural disaster and otherwise. The country is in need of millions of dollars right now to meet the needs of the communities hardest hit by the earthquake. Our facilities are strategically placed just two hours outside of Port-au-Prince and will inevitably absorb the flow of patients out of the city. In addition, we need cash on-hand to quickly procure emergency medical supplies, basic living necessities, as well as transportation and logistics support for the tens of thousands of people that will be seeking care at mobile field hospitals in the capital city. Any and all support that will help us respond to the immediate needs and continue our mission of strengthening the public health system in Haiti is greatly appreciated.

If you are not in a position to make a financial contribution, you can help us raise awareness of the earthquake tragedy. Please alert your friends to the situation and direct them to www.pih.org for updates and ways to help.

Donate now to support our earthquake relief efforts

Share this important update with a friend

Thank you for your solidarity during this crisis,

Ophelia Dahl
Executive Director

This email was sent to:

Partners In Health
888 Commonwealth Ave, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02215

Thank you for reading.
Norah Lynne Brown, VP
Gallery One