Sanford School of Medicine School of Medicine

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Haiti Mission Trip

Amanda Dorale in Haiti for mission trip

Helping Haiti:
Medical Student Part of Mission Trip

By Pat Mack

Amanda Dorale learned about kwashiorkor as a first-year medical student at the Sanford School of Medicine.

But she learned the full impact of the acute form of childhood protein malnutrition on a mission trip to Haiti in May. "We talked about kwashiorkor in medical school, but it doesn't come close to preparing you for the shock of protein malnutrition right before your eyes," Dorale, now a second-year medical student, said. "I just felt my heart break for those children."

Children who looked 3 years old were actually 7.

"Dorale encountered the children at the Center of Hope, a facility for malnourished children and at-risk pregnant women in Jeremie, Haiti. It was just one stop in a week-long trip to Haiti, sponsored by Avera Health and the Haitian Health Foundation.

Dorale said Haitians somehow survive despite no running water, little food and homes that resemble shacks. "Their hope and resilience will be forever part of my memories of Haiti. Even in the direst of situations, these people have faith," Dorale said. At the clinic, Dorale helped count pills of amoxicillin and vitamins for pregnant women. She discovered that some of the children did not even know how to play - a shortcoming she addressed.

"I colored with the children and took them on wagon rides," she said. "It was an indescribable feeling to see these children smiling, knowing what they had been through, seeing that they could still feel happiness in the midst of extreme poverty."

During the first three days of her trip, Dorale worked with two Avera doctors at a medical clinic in Dayere. "We saw a variety of patients that had walked for miles just to come and see us," Dorale said.

The most difficult part was that the clinic lacked equipment for diagnostic testing and doctors needed to rely on physical findings and the translated words of the patient. Dorale said one of the translators for the group showed her how much people in Haiti help each other. Although home ownership is rare in Haiti, the translator had been given a home by the Haitian Health Foundation.

"Instead of keeping it for himself, his wife and son, he gave it to his mother and father and still lives in a rented place. His parents had never had a place of their own," Dorale said. "The culture of Haiti is very beautiful. They are the most gracious and generous people I have ever met."

She said she volunteered for the trip to help Haiti. "But my experience there has done more for me than I have done for them," she said. "The trip taught me so much more about who I am and who I want to be."