Dartmouth Stands with Haiti


College and DHMC send medical teams, supplies Students raise more than $150,000 for relief efforts

Intensive care nurse Kimberly Gagnon was one of nine Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) nurses and physicians who traveled to Haiti to provide medical care four days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the republic, killing more than 150,000 people. “Even in the face of despair the Haitian people want to learn more so that they can do more for their people,” Gagnon wrote in an email from Hinche, where she and Dartmouth’s Team One treated patients at a health-care clinic affiliated with the nonprofit organization Partners in Health (PIH).


Dartmouth Team Two nurses Emma Batchelder (left) and Jennifer Clark tend to patients in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, while members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division look on. (photo by James A. Geiling, MD)

“[Haitians] lack the supplies and technology we take for granted, and yet they perform good medicine here; with their patients’ best interests at heart,” wrote Gagnon. “Today we were asked to give a lecture on trauma care. Nurses and doctors attended willing and ready to learn from us, and what they don’t realize, is how much they have already taught us. About life, humanity, and selflessness.” Dartmouth Team One returned to Hanover on January 25.

Since the earthquake struck on January 12, the Dartmouth community has rallied to provide assistance, deploying 20 doctors and nurses and delivering 15,000 pounds of medical and relief supplies in airplanes donated by alumni and Dartmouth parents. A student initiative, Students at Dartmouth for Haiti Relief (SDHR), has raised more than $140,000 in an online collegiate challenge for PIH, and an additional $13,400 on campus. (Donate to Partners in Health.)

“I have been astounded by our community’s rapid response to this tragedy. I have often commented on the unique spirit of collaboration at Dartmouth. Now, we are seeing how much we can accomplish by working together,” wrote President Jim Yong Kim in a January 19 letter to the Dartmouth community. Kim, who co-founded Boston-based PIH in 1987, noted that the alliance between Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical School, DHMC, and PIH was pivotal to Dartmouth’s quick mobilization.

Early organization was also a key to Dartmouth students’ fundraising success. SDHR has already surpassed its two previous fundraising goals of $100,000 and $125,000 for PIH and is setting the pace nationwide for college and university fundraising for Haitian relief. The group has also organized more than 300 campus and community volunteers into various committees and sponsored a dinner that raised $3,700. The SDHR’s organizational model is now being followed by other colleges and universities across the country, as noted in a recent Associated Press article.

“I think the energy of the student response speaks volumes to the respect that the student body has for President Kim’s work in Haiti and with PIH,” says Alexandra Schindler ’10, one of the founders of SDHR with Maura Cass ’10 and student body president Frances Vernon ’10. “Dartmouth students feel a responsibility not only to their own community but to their country and their world.”

The group is also developing a long-term educational effort to explain the need for political, structural, and economic change in Haiti. “Our Dartmouth team is already in discussion with young leaders around the country to develop a national educational plan,” says Vernon. “It’s crucial to understand what is at stake and how we can continue to help.”

At the Haiti Up-lifted fundraising dinner on January 23, Haitian-American John Albert ’11 told the crowd that he was grateful for the money being raised, but that rebuilding Haiti required sustained investment. He recounted that his father and grandfather are currently sleeping in the front yard and on the porch of their damaged home in Haiti, and that the two schools where his father serves as principal were destroyed.

“What Haiti needs from us is a commitment not only for the next couple of months but for years to come,” says Albert, who lived in Haiti for 13 years before political instabilities required a move to Boston for high school. “Everyone was affected by this, rich and poor, and they need your support. I am very confident that Haiti will rise again, and I want all of you to be a part of that.”

Bonnie Barber