Brandeis alumni mount medical mission to assist in Haiti relief Sept. 5-10

United by their concern for the people of Haiti and their allegiance to Brandeis, a group of alumni have volunteered for a medical mission to the earthquake-ravaged island nation next month.

The mission is being organized by the student-led Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort (BHRE) and coordinated by the nongovernmental organization Hope for Haiti. Members include physicians and a dentist who will provide medical and dental care to residents of Les Cayes, a seaport four hours south of Port-au-Prince, from September 5-10.

More than 20 Brandeis alumni who work in the medical professions expressed interest in volunteering, but scheduling conflicts prevented some from participating, according to Nate Rosenblum ’10, a co-director of Brandeis Haiti Relief.

“I was very impressed with the response from Brandeis alumni,” said Rosenblum, who credited Rick Sawyer, Brandeis’ dean of students, with the idea for the mission. “It shows that Brandeis is a very compassionate community and that commitment doesn’t change once you leave the campus.”

Volunteer Mark Horowitz ’79, who has a daughter in the Brandeis Class of 2013, sees many Haitians as patients at his family practice in New York and is looking forward to helping residents of the impoverished country.

“I have tremendous admiration for the spirit and culture of the Haitian people and want to help out in my small way,” said Horowitz, who earned his medical degree at the State University of New York-Stony Brook. “I’m expecting a tremendous visual and emotional impact when I see for myself the level of destruction and the lack of resources.”

Horowitz said he has always wanted to participate in a medical mission, but many such trips require extensive experience in acute care.

“In the past, I’ve responded personally to several of the worldwide disasters in the same way that many people in the healing profession do: I wish I could do something more than just write a check,” Horowitz said.

While Horowitz is volunteering for his first medical mission, Michele Mandel '93 has gone abroad before to provide care for the needy. In 2006, she spent a week in a small village in Paraguay during her pediatric residency at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.

"It was one of the best experiences I have ever had," said Mandel, a pediatrician in Manchester, N.H. "It was very rewarding to go to a place where health care is a gift, not an expectation. Routine health care hardly existed there; patients would only seek care when they were hurt or ill. Mothers stood in line for hours waiting for us to take a look at their children. I felt like we were making a difference in their lives."

In recent years, Mandel has started to feel nostalgic about Brandeis and wanted to reconnect with the University. The medical mission with Hope for Haiti gives her the chance.

"I have gotten to the point in my life where I want to reach back to my roots," she said. "This is a great opportunity for me to get involved with Brandeis again. I am looking forward to meeting the other volunteers and learning from them on both a professional and personal level."

For Horowitz, the experience has already engendered good feelings about his alma mater. Horowitz has been impressed by Rosenblum, the trip organizer, who worked with Hope for Haiti during January’s winter break. Rosenblum left the country three days before the earthquake hit.

“I feel great pride that it was a recent Brandeis graduate who organized the trip, worked there himself, and did his own due diligence,” Horowitz said. “It’s clear that a Brandeis education can foster a very positive world view and nourish someone who already has humanistic sentiments.”

The Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort, which was established by students in the days after the earthquake, has focused on fundraising, increasing awareness about Haiti, and celebrating the country’s rich cultural history. It raised more than $30,000 through a variety of events and other initiatives during spring semester.

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