In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which has devastated Haiti, it’s important to note the grassroots organizations that focus not just on relief and recovery, but also community and cultural sustainability. The Haiti Medical Education Project’s mission is to keep the best and brightest Haitian medical talent living and working Haiti, creating a continuous  braintrust that will put the country’s care in a better place for decades to come. We’ve donated our video technology to the project for several years to help them do so.

The Haiti Medical Education Project is a non-profit organization established by international healthcare providers, academics, and social activists after a major turning point for the country, the massive earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 100,000 people. Vidyo has helped Haiti train its doctors since that cataclysmic moment that changed the country forever. Through our video conferencing technology, Haitian medical students connect to physicians and medical educators around the globe, thus continuing their education – while remaining at home in their own country.
The historic 2010 earthquake, in one fell swoop, exposed Haiti’s dire need for highly-qualified medical doctors that are also well-trained in mass emergency situations that deal with entire populations. In Haiti, while plans for disaster response are laid out, implementing a system for delivering emergency care has not been so easy. It’s been a challenge for them to put repeatable medical processes in place throughout a fragmented nation. Hurricane Matthew has yet again challenged this nation in disaster response. How the state will coordinate with NGOs to normalize these systems is what the Haitian people want to see moving forward. Vidyo has become a key asset.

It is not only the day of Hurricane Matthew itself that has caused destruction, but its effect on the existing cholera epidemic in Haiti that is now going to get worse. There have already been 400 suspected cholera cases reported in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. What encompasses a system for disaster response is complex and different everywhere, and the Haiti Medical Education Project has little time to waste, which is how Vidyo has helped them stream critical lectures and lessons to hundreds of doctors across the country at the same time. They need to act fast, with little downtime to spare.

To act quickly and efficiently, the HME Project has built out five or six (sometimes up to eight) different lecture sites around the country, with anywhere from 100 – 150 medical students and professionals connecting remotely via Vidyo all at the same time to share their strategies and knowledge. The challenge is that they have to achieve this while operating under very low bandwidth conditions and bad networks. According to HME President Dr. Cruff Renard, the ability to connect to the lectures via mobile devices, with stability regardless of location, has recently been a gamechanger for the project.

Vidyo has worked with HME for six years, with evolving needs. The Haitian government and NGOs operating in the country have learned lessons in relief response from the 2010 earthquake. For example, PTSD psychological services will be essential for medical professionals to be aware of when treating patients going forward.

Initially, to do distance learning, HME struggled to find video technology that just worked. Regular electrical problems and unpredictable internet are made worse when disaster strikes. Vidyo has helped HME focus on their task at hand, not IT issues.

By conducting distance learning via Vidyo, more than 500 Haitians health care professionals (medical students, residents, nurses and practicing physicians) from five differents hospital and institutions have attended HME’s weekly lectures, and they expect the number of hospitals they partner with to double by next year. Additionally, over the last 18 months, HME – in partnership with Global CALS – has trained more than 100 Haitian nurses and physicians on basic emergency care delivery, using standardized evidence-based guidelines that have been adapted for a country with limited resources. According to Dr. Renard, using simple skills and simple tools that are readily available is a key factor in access to emergency care in Haiti.

Vidyo has assisted HME in recently creating an integrated research course based in Port au Prince, involving participation from 35 different faculties. After learning basic research methods, each faculty has to then design an adaptive curriculum for their respective institutions throughout Haiti. The professor, from the City University of New York, is able to remote in from anywhere thanks to video chat technology.

The long-term mission of the HME is sustainability. According to Dr. Renard, Hurricane Matthew will unfortunately be a major step back for Haiti. However, they maintain a positive outlook. He also believes the resilience of the Haitian people will persevere once again. To learn more, visit http://www.hmeproject.org.