Germain in Haiti: They also came to teach

Amid heart-pounding drama and medical excitement, there's a quiet yet crucial aspect of Team Broken Earth's mission in Port-au-Prince, writes Anthony Germain.
Haitian medical residents ask questions and get engaged during a seminar with pediatrician Natalie Bridger. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

[Anthony Germain is nearing the end a week-long assignment covering Team Broken Earth, a group of Newfoundland and Labrador nurses and doctors, in Haiti.]

Day 6

The wee hours, April 4, 2014. Hospital Bernard Mevs.

Massive trauma from violent car wrecks, fixing deformed faces of newborns and treating gunshot wounds are infinitely sexier (as we say in the news biz) than education.  

Ienée Alcé​, a pediatric resident, says despite a tendency for foreign teams to come to Haiti with airs of superiority, contact with Newfoundland's Team Broken Earth will make her a better doctor. (Anthony Germain/CBC)
But I can't wind down these dispatches from Haiti without looking at one of the activities that's been going on here all week behind the scenes. 

Various members from Team Broken Earth came here prepped with notes, slide shows, and other materials for mini-seminars and informal learning sessions. Away from the Bernard Mevs hospital where the team is based, before heading into surgery, Dr. Andrew Furey was frequently up early giving medical lectures to residents in some of Haiti's state-run hospitals.

While I don't see this prediction happening soon, Dr. Furey and his colleague Dr. Art Rideout frequently say their ultimate goal is to do themselves out of the volunteer jobs they have taken on here. 

Smiles and sharp questions

If you've been following these entries, you know that the team of Newfoundland medical personnel saved lives this week, and they've fixed painful injuries and other ailments — often in dramatic fashion. But Broken Earth's presence here is about something bigger: helping Haitians to learn how to take care of themselves. 

When I sat in on some of these teaching sessions, I saw young Haitian residents and nurses deeply engaged in meaningful discussions with knowledgeable team members on a variety of medical topics. 

Perhaps I'm feeling guilty for falling into another of the news biz's vulgarities: "If it bleeds, it leads." (And, believe me, there have been a lot of bleeds).

Education is more difficult to report on, and it isn't visually interesting, But informing the upcoming generation of Haitian doctors and nurses about the latest surgical practices, new technologies and pharmaceutical innovations is as important as all the work done here this week in the clinics, operating rooms, or the emergency department. 

I saw smiles and heard sharp questions from the soon-to-be doctors and nurses in this country. The impact of Team Broken Earth's presence here this week may be greater for the way it touched peoples minds than for the number of people it treated.  

Surgeon Frank Noftall, working with nurse Jim Maher, assists a Haitian doctor and puts a new cast on paraplegic man at the Bernard Mevs hospital's spinal cord unit. (Anthony Germain/CBC)

About the Author

Anthony Germain

CBC News

Anthony Germain cohosts Here & Now in Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a former host of the St. John's Morning Show and CBC Radio's The House, and is CBC's former correspondent in China.