Over the course of the last five years, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Dyer has traveled to Haiti 14 times. His commitment to the country began immediately following the 2010 earthquake when he signed up to travel there with Partners in Health. His mission then and now has been to help train skilled orthopedic surgeons.
Reflecting on his first trip to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake Dr. Dyer says, “It was very rewarding. We did a lot of good. But as the two weeks that I was there wore on it, it was clear that the earthquake was really only asmall blip in the number of orthopedic injuries that overwhelm the local capacity of surgeons in Haiti.” At the time there were just 40 orthopedic surgeons in a country of 12 million.
With the support of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and their generous grant, Dr. Dyer and his colleagues have worked tirelessly to foster an interest in orthopedics in young Haitians and help them get the training they need to practice their profession. They organize orthopedic training for residents and also fully trained orthopedists in Haiti. They bring visitors to Haiti to teach local physicians on the ground. They organize an annual conference. And they bring their Haitian colleagues out of the country to go to the US or elsewhere for training courses and to see techniques that are not taught anywhere in Haiti.
“You fast forward five years,” says Dr. Dyer, “And―I don’t claim credit for this transformation, but it’s been very gratifying to play some part in it and watch it all happen―it’s really now a vibrant career field in Haiti. Young medical graduates are flocking to this profession.”
For Dr. Dyer, the highlight each year is the annual conference from which he has recently returned. “All three of the residency programs that exist now, plus most of the practicing orthopedists in the country, come to this conference that’s three days long.” The conference is funded jointly with a number of groups, but predominantly by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. During the three days, there are lectures in French and English, hands-on practical instruction and opportunities for networking. “When you’re in that room you have a sense of the energy and excitement around orthopedics,” says Dr. Dyer.
The ultimate goal of Dr. Dyer and his colleagues is to ensure the country’s young physicians get the training they need and once that training is complete, they stay and practice in Haiti. “The biggest thing is to make good on the promise to these young people that orthopedics will remain a viable and exciting thing to do in Haiti,” he says. “All the Haitians that I know are just fiercely patriotic and proud people. They love Haiti and if there is any way to stay there and make a living and have a satisfying career, they will do it,” he says.
Since the earthquake, aid has poured into Haiti from all around the world. “There are many, many people who’ve played a role in Haiti’s rejuvenation. It’s been a privilege to play a part in it,” says Dr. Dyer. “It’s a very compelling place. And it’s a place with a great deal of need and a great deal of joy.”