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Spokane docs go to Haiti to help

Fri., Jan. 22, 2010

Physicians ‘felt compelled to act’

Several local doctors have left for Haiti as suffering continues to unfold on a staggering scale.

It’s among the initial efforts as Spokane’s medical community prepares to join in helping the earthquake-ravaged country.

Dr. Elizabeth Peterson, a plastic surgeon, and Dr. Gary Lee, who treats critically ill children, flew to the Caribbean nation Wednesday night to help injured people and determine what’s needed most in hopes of developing and dispatching a medical team from Spokane.

American doctors in Haiti say up to 20,000 people who could be saved by surgery may die every day, according to reports by the BBC.

“(Peterson and Lee) are physicians who felt compelled to act,” said Kate Vanskike, a spokeswoman for Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The doctors, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, have gone on other medical mission trips to troubled countries.

Vanskike spoke with the doctors before they left and shared her notes.

“This is the first of what I hope will be many trips to Haiti,” she said Peterson told her, “even if all we are able to accomplish on this visit is to put plans in place for continued work in this area.”

Peterson is prepared to postpone a trip to India later this month, where she is scheduled to perform cleft palate repairs as part of Operation Smile.

Lee and Peterson have formed a nonprofit company to assist their efforts in third-world countries.

At least one surgeon from the Rockwood Clinic has been in Haiti for several days as part of a relief effort by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He asked that his name not be published until he returns, said Rockwood spokeswoman Jill Fix.

Sacred Heart has a program that collects donated medical supplies and then ships them around the world to countries in need. It is headed by Rosalie Locati, a nun and the director of missions with the Sisters of Providence. Several days before the Jan. 12 earthquake struck, a cargo-container of medical supplies was assembled and shipped from Seattle bound for Haiti. The supplies have since arrived and are being put to use treating victims of the natural disaster.

“We received confirmation of that and feel fortunate to help,” Vanskike said.

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