Spotlight: UI student provided medical care to Haitians

BY CAITLIN FRY | MARCH 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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Kristen Jogerst’s eyes soften as she gazes at a photo of a Haitian child from the little village of Camatin. It’s images such as these that are engraved deeply into her memory.

“If I could go back there now, I would, in a heartbeat,” the University of Iowa junior said.

This past winter break, Jogerst, 21, and a group of around 15 others traveled to Port-au-Prince and the village of Camatin and stayed for one week to distribute medical care to the people.

Haiti is still recovering from the damages left behind by the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010. The earthquake is estimated to have claimed 316,000 lives.

Jogerst, an integrative-physiology major, experienced the aftermath of the earthquake firsthand, and while she couldn’t comprehend how anyone could continue with the tragedies that happened, she saw something even greater in the Haitian people.

“The Haitian spirit is so resilient,” she said. “Some U.S. patients are just not as appreciative — their treatments often aren’t fast enough or aren’t up to their standards. Every single Haitian patient I worked with was so thankful for what we did.”

The medical-mission trip was under the auspices of the Community Health Initiative, an organization that Twin Cities physician Josh White and UI Clinical Assistant Professor of emergency medicine Chris Buresh created so doctors could go to Haiti for twice-yearly visits.

Their main goal is to practice primary care for the Haitian people as well as establish primary-care systems in the communities. Jogerst said she heard of the opportunity in January 2010 and jumped on it.

“The great thing about [the Community Health Initiative] is that other places stick a small Band-Aid on a big problem and the initiative continues to follow the patients year round,” she said.

She had long wanted to do medical mission work, and the trip to Haiti was a good experience to see if she wanted to pursue other medical missions such as Doctors Without Borders.

Fellow mission worker and UI staff nurse Casey Panko was impressed with Jogerst’s drive and enthusiasm while in Haiti.

“I was amazed at how compassionate and caring Kristen was with the Haitian people,” she said.

One of the more exciting incidents Jogerst had while in Haiti was helping to deliver a baby without the resources of a hospital. She also experienced genuine Haitian hospitality by eating some of the finest Haitian cuisine prepared by the Camatin mayor’s wife.

The mayor’s wife prepared pumpkin soup, the national dish of Haiti and a cake that took 10 hours to make so the group would continue to come back and help her people.

Jogerst didn’t have to be asked twice to promise to return to the Haitian people.

“In Haiti, when you promise something, you keep your word,” she said. “It’s an unwritten rule.”

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