Ten years ago on Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti, heavily damaging its capital city of Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns. Reports estimate more than 100,000 people were killed and 250,000 homes were left in shambles. In the next two weeks, some 52 aftershocks measuring at 4.5 magnitude and greater continued to ravage the area.
Following the disaster, Massachusetts General Hospital immediately coordinated an emergency response effort, assisting employees with ties to Haiti and coordinating nearly 100 staff members to serve as medical volunteers to travel to the country to provide much-needed support. Over the course of the past 10 years, staff members continued – and continue – to return to Haiti to provide clinical care and other assistance.
“It’s overwhelming to see such large numbers of people affected – you can feel helpless,” Susan Briggs, MD, a trauma surgeon who was part of the response, said at the time. “You can’t take back their losses, and you can’t do much of anything on your own. But because everyone at Mass General worked together, we could make a difference in Haiti. We gave them hope for the future.”
A Legacy of Service
Disaster response efforts like the one launched in response to the Haiti earthquake speak to the legacy of service Mass General has maintained since it opened its doors in 1811, when its founders promised assistance in an open letter to the Boston community. “When in distress, every man is our neighbor,” they wrote. Today, that community and Mass General’s reach has grown from local to global.
Mass General faculty and staff are working in more than 70 countries around the globe.
Through the Center for Global Health, Mass General deploys teams of medical professionals to respond to natural disasters. Thanks to philanthropy and support from other sources, the center has partnered with communities and local organizations to develop a variety of global health care programs. Other long-running and successful global health initiatives by Mass General faculty include developing vaccines for diarrheal disease in Bangladesh, supporting an oncology program in Botswana and developing palliative care programs in Vietnam.
To learn how you can support the Mass General Center for Global Health, please contact us.
This story was first published in MGH Hotline, a publication for employees and staff of Mass General.