Dr. Nadia Duvilaire, the Chief of Family Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan, took a week out of her busy schedule in October to go on an emergency humanitarian mission to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew caused widespread devastation to that Caribbean country.
Dr. Duvilaire, a veteran of many foreign medical missions, was invited to Haiti by the National Organization for the Advancement of Haiti. She traveled with a group of 20 doctors and nurses a week after the hurricane struck the southwest part of the country on Oct. 3 and saw a terribly devastated countryside.
“A lot of trees were destroyed—some bent, some broken in pieces,” recalled Dr. Duvilaire, a native of Haiti. “We saw electric poles ripped off and lots of roofs torn off houses.”
For five days, Dr. Duvilaire’s mission treated about 100 patients a day in two towns—Saint-Jean-du-Sud, where they worked out of a makeshift clinic in a vacant office, and Jeremie, where they worked in the emergency room of a local hospital that had been mostly destroyed.
“We set up a clinic where people came and we gave them rudimentary healthcare,” Dr. Duvilaire said. “We were able take their blood pressure, change their wounds—many people had wounds from the debris, like leg and foot injuries. We treated folks for diabetes, skin infections and GI infections from drinking bad water and bad food.”
She even helped a colleague deliver a baby.
For Dr. Duvilaire, the mission was a way of giving back. As a child growing up in Haiti, she suffered from asthma. She recalled her grandmother waking her early in the morning so they could travel to a clinic where foreign doctors had come to provide medical care.
“That’s my recollection and that tugs at my heart whenever I can go on a mission, whether it’s for five days or 10 days—to bring my expertise because I was helped once,” she said.
Dr. Duvilaire moved to New York City as a teenager, graduated from Union College in Schenectady and received her Medical Degree from the SUNY Upstate Medical University. She served her residency in Family Medicine at the Catholic Medical Center in Queens and now specializes in Family Medicine. Her responsibilities at Metropolitan include serving as Chief of Service for Family Medicine at La Clinica del Barrio, an off-site family health center that Metropolitan runs in Harlem, and as Medical Director of Metropolitan’s LGBT Health Center since its inception three years ago.
Dr. Duvilaire has been going on foreign medical missions for 20 years, but this was the first time she went on a mission to Haiti.
“I do this because unfortunately there is a great need, even though what we may have to offer to some folks are only a Band-Aid,” she said. “I found that if we can help, even it’s very little, I’d rather do that than not do anything at all.”