Four physicians from Summit Medical Group flew to Haiti on Feb. 2 to treat earthquake victims in the heart of Port-au-Prince. The donated flight aboard a private plane left Tuesday morning from McGhee Tyson Airport.
Three of the four doctors left their Summit primary care practices to spend Feb. 2-9 in Haiti: Dr. John Law, Dr. Jeffrey Robinson and Dr. Charles Bozeman. The fourth, Dr. Charles Barnett, is a retired Summit doctor who is known locally for starting Free Flu Shot Saturday in 1992.
Law, who practices with Summit’s Farragut Family Practice, said the whole thing started when he wanted to help a local organization working in Haiti. He began searching for an agency less than a week ago. He thought perhaps he could help with a donation or medical supplies. Then he heard about Provision, a local organization which was working with The Jimani Project in Jimani, Dominican Republic, about 25 miles from Haiti’s ravaged earthquake zone. The Jimani Project, begun in Knoxville about 10 years ago, had recently constructed a yet-to-be-opened orphanage and clinic, which was quickly turned into a hospital after the earthquake. Patients were being brought from Port-au-Prince to the makeshift hospital, swelling its capacity to 1,000.
Once Law learned of the great need for medical professionals and of a donated private plane leaving in just a few days, he knew he wanted to go himself instead of sending a donation. When he sent out an e-mail to his Summit colleagues seeking other volunteers, two signed up to go along: Bozeman, who has practiced in Sevierville for 30 years, as well as Robinson, who practices at Internal Medicine Associates in West Knoxville and has young children. The group is also taking 200 pounds of medical supplies.
“I didn’t know then I was going to go. Then I thought, I need to set an example and go where there is a need,” Law said. “The more I talked to them (Provision), the more the plan came together. They really do need doctors and nurses.”
Law, who joined Summit about three years ago, has worked extensively in Summit’s Express Clinics, so he’s treated lots of injuries. He said in Haiti he expects to mostly treat wounds and infections.
Space in a stable building in the heart of Port-au-Prince has been secured for use as a clinic. That’s where the Summit primary care doctors will practice. Those who have more serious injuries will be transported to the small hospital in Jimani, while critical patients will be evacuated to a hospital ship.
The quickly assembled team, including four nurses, met for the first time Sunday night. Barnett, despite his long ties to Summit, came to the effort through the request of a former patient, Terry Douglass, who along with his wife, Rosann Douglass, established Provision.
Barnett has worked in Haiti before and says the need is overwhelming, and he hopes to simply show the Haitians that people care about them.
“I’ve been there before, and it’s so pitiful. It’s even worse now,” Barnett said. “You just sort of hold your finger in the dyke and let them know somebody cares.”
Bobbie Corden of Provision, said the faith-based organization has had teams of physicians and nurses in Haiti for about two weeks and plans a subsequent trip when this team returns. Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church is handling donations made to the effort. The church’s Web site is http://www.cspc.net.
Summit Medical Group’s 215 physicians treat 300,000 East Tennesseans at 52 practice sites in 10 counties. For more information, visit http://www.summithealthcare.com.