Boston College home page | office of public affairs | BCinfo | bc Media | event calendar | directories | search BC

Clinical Asst. Prof. Donna Cullinan (CSON) at a recent planning meeting for the school’s medical missionary trip to Haiti: “You have to know and respect the culture. You have to know how they do things and make sure you do things their way, not your way.” (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Despite Setback, CSON Hopeful on Haiti Trip

Bookmark and Share

By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff
Published: Dec. 16, 2010
The Connell School of Nursing’s medical mission to Haiti, scheduled for January, had to be postponed this week due to that country’s growing political unrest and a travel warning issued by the US State Department recommending against all non-essential travel to the Caribbean nation.

While the CSON faculty, students and alumnae who had been preparing for the trip all semester are “heartbroken” by the turn of events, they are committed to bringing their nursing skills and medical aid to Haiti sometime during the spring semester, according to trip leader CSON Clinical Assistant Professor Donna Cullinan.

When the CSON team does eventually arrive in Haiti, the plan is to set up a clinic in Leogane, about 20 miles outside of Port-au-Prince, where they will see about 300 to 400 patients a day. According to Cullinan, common ailments the team will encounter are cholera, hypertension, acid reflux, scabies, diabetes, fungal infections, wounds and infestations.

For an aid trip to be successful, “you have to know and respect the culture. You have to know how they do things and make sure you do things their way, not your way,” said Cullinan, who went to Haiti last February to aid victims of the catastrophic earthquake.

Cullinan, a certified family nurse practitioner, has a longstanding commitment to Haiti. For 10 years, under the aegis of the non-profit organization Circle of Hope, Cullinan has volunteered her time and nursing skills as part of a team providing medical care in Haiti.

Other members of the CSON-Haiti group are: Carroll Professor of Nursing Judith Vessey, alumnae Elizabeth Donahue ’05, MS ’10, and Kathryn Quinn MS ’10, graduate students Elizabeth Hodgman, Laura Kondrat, Caitlin Reisman and Kate Sortun, and seniors Myriam Charles-Pierre, Emily Doyle, Katie D’Souza, Kellyn Freed, Bridget Igo, Erin Kane, Djerica Lamousnery, Lauren Szabo and Molly Rosenwasser.

Each one will bring 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.  

Besides providing much-needed medical care, the trip also will give an economic boost to the village because the team will pay locals to act as translators, cooks and transporters. The CSON team also will visit the students and faculty at the FSIL School of Nursing.

The CSON students have been fundraising to support the venture, including organizing a successful 5K race on campus in November with the help of Student Programs Assistant Director Karl Bell.

“The support from the community, alumni, and our peers has been absolutely amazing,” said Doyle. “At the 5K race, we had around 250 participants. We also collected donations at two tailgates during football season.

“BC has always felt like a big family and it certainly felt that way those two Saturday mornings, generous donations and genuine well wishes from everyone. It makes you feel good, like you have a built in support system that stretches world-wide.”

“I’m so thankful for the support we have received. [CSON] Dean Susan Gennaro has given us so much encouragement and support,” said Cullinan, who also expressed gratitude for the financial and logistical assistance provided by the CSON Dean’s Office and the Volunteer and Service Learning Center.

Despite the problems in Haiti, Doyle said that Cullinan has helped them focus on the hope and goodness of the Haiti people. “[She] always tells us about the kindness of the people we will meet, how generous they are and the way they will invite us into their lives. It is nice to hear so much about the passion and pride of the Haitians and their wide open hearts.”