How about an uplifting news story for a change? Here’s a short but important CNN video clip that aired over this past weekend. As we mark the second anniversary of the earthquake that demolished much of Haiti, many of international news reports have focused on the fact that there is still so much that needs to be done to help this ravaged country. But here is one very positive account of countries, universities, medical practitioners and Vidyo (!) coming together to ensure that Haiti’s own medical community is restored and able to thrive into the future.
The Haiti Medical Education (HME) Project — a non-profit (501c3) organization, established by international healthcare providers, academics, and social activists — was founded in 2010, following the devastating earthquake that brought worldwide attention to Haiti and its people. Working in alliance with Haitian medical leadership, faculty, and students to preserve and further the education of the many displaced Haitian medical students affected by the earthquake disaster, its mission is to restore and build upon both the physical and curricular infrastructure of existing Haitian medical schools and teaching hospitals, to ensure that the next generation of Haitian doctors and medical leaders are ready to care for Haiti.
When HME coordinators identified “distance learning” via video conferencing as the best and fastest means to reactivate medical classes in Haiti, they were initially dismayed at the problems they encountered with most video conferencing systems they tried.
Dr. Galit M. Sacajiu, President and Medical Education Director of HME, explains: “Haiti’s problematic Internet connections and typically antiquated computer hardware presented major challenges when we first attempted to initiate remote classes via video communications. Vidyo was the only solution that was able to make these critical video connections at all possible. Vidyo’s capacity to support video conferencing under less-than-optimal bandwidth conditions was key to getting us up and running.”
Since Vidyo’s products do not rely on specialized networks or equipment and can deliver quality video with even limited broadband connections, Vidyo was able to jump in and provide timely help in for this critical situation completely free of charge.
To date, 60 international medical professors from a variety of medical institutions — including Dartmouth College, Harvard Medical School, Albert Einstein Medical School in the U.S., McGill University and Montreal University Medical Schools in Canada, and Lyons University Medical School in France – have volunteered their time and expertise to enable Haitian physicians/medical students to continue their medical studies through a Vidyo-supported lecture program. Currently there are 45+ Haitian medical students enrolled in the program and the number is expected to grow as the program expands.
According to HME lecturer and the Chairman of HMEP advisory board advisor Dr. Brain Remillard, Associate Professor of Medicine and Section Chief, Nephrology & Hypertension, Dartmouth Medical School, “The task of physically rebuilding Haiti’s entire hospital and medical school infrastructure is incredibly complex; if we had to wait for the actual facilities to be constructed, we would lose a whole generation of physicians. Vidyo has helped us offer ‘knowledge without borders.’ What we can do with this assistance from Vidyo is revolutionary; we’re able to use cutting-edge technology to open up the world and the free flow of knowledge to make sure the best and the brightest young physicians in Haiti STAY in Haiti where they are desperately needed.”
At the core of HME’s Vidyo-supported initiative is a weekly lecture series taught by prominent medical educators from Canada, the United States and France who are able to instruct the Haitian students via high-quality VidyoConferencing that is accessed over the Internet, despite low-bandwidth limitations. The remote medical faculty members are able to clearly see and respond to the Haitian students, plus share documents via Vidyo; the students are likewise able to interact with the instructors.
Through this series, not only do Haitian medical students now have the opportunity to receive the needed credits to complete their medical degree, but the country’s practicing physicians are able to keep apprised of the latest medical information and techniques. The HME project is currently working with at least ten clinical facilities in Haiti.
A proof point of HME’s success was highlighted over this past weekend. The first-ever Haitian “white coat ceremony”, an event during which medical students are formally welcomed into the doctoring profession, took place at Quisqueya Medical School (QMS) in Pétion-Ville, Haïti. During the ceremony, the graduating class took the Hippocratic Oath, which stresses the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship and the importance of compassion in medicine. This ceremony traditionally symbolizes the long journey towards professionalism and healing that all doctors must complete. To these particular Haitian medical students, the event provided an even greater measure of significance and pride. Vidyo is gratified and honored to play a role in this milestone.