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Better Late: After Two-Month Delay, CSON Group Is Finally Off to Haiti

Clinical Asst. Prof. Donna Cullinan (CSON), seated center, is leading the Connell School of Nursing trip to Haiti, which had been originally scheduled for January. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: Mar. 31, 2011

A group of Connell School of Nursing faculty, students and alumnae are in Haiti on a medical mission, a trip originally scheduled for January that had to be postponed due to political unrest in that country. The group left campus March 26 and will return this Sunday.  

The trip — the Connell School’s first to Haiti — is being led by CSON Clinical Assistant Professor Donna Cullinan, a certified family nurse practitioner who was on the ground providing aid to Haitians just weeks after last year’s devastating earthquake. Cullinan returned to Haiti last month for another medical mission and was heartened by the progress.   

“There is construction going on. Kids are back at school. There are still tons of tent cities, but the overall picture was very encouraging. The hope of the people in Haiti is amazing,” said Cullinan, interviewed prior to the group’s departure.

The CSON team is staying in Leogane, about 20 miles west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince, where they expect to see about 300 to 400 clinic patients a day. Common ailments they will encounter are cholera, hypertension, acid reflux, scabies, diabetes, fungal infections, wounds and infestations. The group also will travel to the remote mountain top village of Basin Bleu, where they will set up a clinic for locals who very rarely receive any health care.  

In addition to Cullinan, the BC team consists of Carroll Professor of Nursing Judith Vessey, alumnae Elizabeth Donahue ’05, MS ’10 and Kathryn Quinn MS ’10, family nurse practitioner graduate students Elizabeth Hodgman, Laura Kondrat, Caitlin Reisman and Kate Sortun, and nine undergraduates.   

Each of the CSON team members brought three 50-pound suitcases filled with supplies such as pain relievers, vitamins, IV tubing and solution, toothbrushes, underwear, reading glasses, and antibiotics and other medicines.    

Cullinan said the Haitian children are especially excited when they receive their new underwear. “They are so grateful for anything we can give them. Everything in their lives is hand-me-downs. They have nothing new,” she said.   

The group also is scheduled to visit an orphanage in Leogane and two orphanages in Port-au-Prince. “We have formula, diapers and linens ready to give them,” Cullinan said.   

The undergraduate nursing students participating in the trip were selected by Cullinan over the summer from a pool of interested applicants. The experience will qualify as their community health clinical rotation. The undergraduates are Myriam Charles-Pierre; Katie D’Souza; Emily Doyle; Kellyn Freed; Bridget Igo; Erin Kane; Djerica Lamousnery; Lauren Szabo and Molly Rosenwasser. For Charles-Pierre and Lamousnery, the trip has special meaning because they have family in Haiti.   

Throughout the fall semester, the team members prepared for the trip by meeting regularly to discuss Haitian culture and attending IV and suturing workshops. The students also conducted a number of fundraisers to buy supplies.   

Cullinan’s work to bring sustainable health care to Haiti started 10 years ago when she began volunteering for the non-profit organization Circle of Hope, as part of a team of health care professionals who travel to Haiti to provide medical care. She is working on a project to ensure that each Haitian has a medical record. She also has served as a mentor to a translator, who is now in medical school in the Dominican Republic, and to a student who recently graduated as valedictorian at FSIL School of Nursing in Leogane.   

“I know these BC students will be forever changed by this experience,” said Cullinan who says the team plans to present data and photos from their trip later this semester. “My hope is that whatever they do in their life and career after BC that they always find a way to give back.”