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To raise funds for mission to Haiti, UB medical students hold silent auction

by jmaloni


Wed, Dec 3rd 2014 06:30 pm
Ellen Tokarz, a second-year medical student at UB, poses with one of her patients at the clinic in Fontaine, Haiti.
Ellen Tokarz, a second-year medical student at UB, poses with one of her patients at the clinic in Fontaine, Haiti.

Proceeds to fund students' return trip to rural village where they treated 800 patients in five days last spring

A woman who was hemorrhaging three weeks after a stillbirth was taken to a hospital to be treated. Another woman with advanced lymphoma was admitted to the hospital and treated for the first time. A teenage boy's first physical exam revealed a life-threatening heart murmur.

These are a few of the stories students from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will be sharing on Friday as part of a silent auction to support their upcoming medical mission to Fontaine, a medically underserved village in rural Haiti.

The auction will take place from 7-9:30 p.m. at UB's Newman Center, 495 Skinnersville Road on the North Campus. Items to be auctioned include restaurant gift cards, signed apparel from the Buffalo Bills, tickets to the Buffalo Sabres and Skyzone, wine and coffee gift baskets, and themed baskets for kids.

The auction is open to UB faculty, staff and students, as well as the general public. Donations may be made online at http://friendsoffontaine.org; donors should specify their gift is for the UB medical trip.

UB students took their first trip to Fontaine last April, examining, diagnosing and treating more than 800 patients in five days. They performed a wide range of medical procedures, from splinting and stitching a wound a teenaged girl received from a donkey bite to assisting with cyst excisions and diagnosing cataracts and urinary tract infections.

Students are headed back to Fontaine Dec. 29 to treat more patients during another five-day clinic.

"We'll just keep on going as long as we have money," said Ellen Tokarz, a second-year medical student and one of the student leaders of the department of family medicine's global health education program, which sponsors the trip.

In addition to funding medications, supplies and translators for the clinic, the proceeds will make it possible for villagers with serious conditions to get to the hospital.

"A big chunk of the funds we raise pays for transporting people who need more care to the hospital," Tokarz said.

Fontaine is a 20-minute drive from the nearest clinic and about an hour from a hospital, but most villagers never get there because they cannot afford transportation.

Any remaining funds will support the UB students' next trip.

The students' clinic already has dramatically improved medical care in Fontaine, where many of the adults experience their first-ever medical exam.

The students began working in Fontaine as the result of previous work done there by Vincenzo Polsinelli, now a second-year medical student at UB. While an undergraduate at Siena College, he had traveled to Haiti with Friends of Fontaine, the nonprofit organization that built the first school in the village. He now serves on its board.

Polsinelli has completed a pilot study of hypertension in the village, where he found nearly one-third of adults living in and around Fontaine have hypertension - an "alarmingly" high rate, he said. Thanks to the UB clinic, 44 percent of the villagers with hypertension now are being treated with drugs funded by the UB effort.

David Holmes, MD, UB clinical associate professor in the department of family medicine, directs the department's global health education program, which facilitates experiences for medical students and graduate trainees who want to work with patients in medically underserved areas of the world or with refugees in Buffalo. He also oversees the department's focused global health scholars track for select residents.

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