UNC doctor returns to Haiti to care for disabled orphans

Joshua Alexander, MD, director of pediatric rehabilitation at UNC, plans second trip to aid disabled orphans in Haiti.

UNC doctor returns to Haiti to care for disabled orphans click to enlarge Dr. Joshua Alexander tends to a Haitian patient in 2013.

With his departure date of May 18 approaching, Joshua Alexander, MD, is finalizing plans to return to Haiti to care for disabled children at the Zanmi Beni orphanage. Alexander, director of pediatric rehabilitation at N.C. Children’s Hospital and associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), will be joined by Timothy Sanford, MD, a third-year resident in PM&R, and Beth Leiro, a pediatric physical therapist.

This year's visit will be Alexander's second to the orphanage, which was founded to care for physically and/or mentally handicapped orphans displaced by the devastating earthquake in January 2010.

“When I found out that this children’s home was founded to serve children with disabilities, I felt called to help,” recalls Alexander.

Thanks, in part, to a Google grant to the Children’s Hospital and philanthropic support from individuals, the team will deliver adaptive equipment and set up infrastructure to provide telehealth care, education and ongoing communication between care providers at the orphanage in Port au Prince and staff at UNC. Alexander will also visit the U.S. embassy to learn more about official involvement with aid to the Haitian people and tour the Partners in Health University Hospital in Mirebelais.

Alexander’s ongoing work in telemedicine is part of an endeavor to extend the reach of healthcare providers. He sees this network growing to provide care for disabled children throughout Haiti.

“We’ll be caring for the orphans and educating their caregivers about ways to improve the health and function of the children they serve,” says Alexander. “We’ll also set up a telemedicine unit there to enable us to continue delivering consultations and educational programs after we’ve returned home.”

During his initial trip in 2013, Alexander worked with orphanage staff on improving care, nursing and therapy. He lectured on the treatment of cerebral palsy and held a clinic for children brought from surrounding villages. He also worked with the students who traveled with him on becoming comfortable feeding and playing with children with disabilities.

If you would like to help, your tax-deductible donation will assist Drs. Alexander and Sanford in their work and help fund equipment and supplies. You may also visit Dr. Alexander's blog to follow the progress of this year's trip or get more information by downloading the trip flyer.

Images courtesy of Dr. Alexander and Zanmi Beni Orphanage.

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