Blank Slate

The pediatric hospital I worked at was built out of the old residence compound for the Mexican Ambassador. This is not an absurd transition as many of the hospitals, schools, and orphanages in Port Au Prince were transformed from some other structure previously used for a completely different purpose or by a different political regime. Some hospitals were staffed by local physicians, some had residents who were a part of the medical education system, some by rotating international volunteers, and few almost entirely by nurses and community healthcare workers. I visited a clinic with electronic medical records that disposed of their used needles by dropping them in a bin outside the door. Haiti’s healthcare system, if any, was disorganized and inconsistent.

The potential of creating infrastructure from scratch is one that can be appreciated by all (especially those of us in the US). The goal should no longer be to leave the country in the state it was before the earthquake; the complete destruction of the infrastructure has forced the solution of rebuilding, as opposed to fixing. And this distinction is important when considering the possibility of creating something better than was in prior existence. Haiti has the unique opportunity of building a system from the ground up. Finally it is Haiti that will benefit from the trial and error of the rest of the world, as it takes from our successes and failures and crafts a system from these lessons. Supported by experts around the world as well as millions of dollars in resources, I can’t wait to see what is sculpted from this struggling, destroyed, blank system.

Published on: February 02, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Sally Greenwald

Sally Greenwald is a MD MPH student at a medical school in Boston. She is a dancer, a flutist, a swim lesson instructor, a right fielder in softball, and is conversationally fluent in French. She graduated from Tufts University in 2007 and spent a year as Guest Representative of the Emergency Room and Clinical Researcher of the ED at Stanford Hospital.

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