To raise funds for mission to Haiti, UB medical students hold silent auction

Ellen Tokarz with a patient at a Haiti clinic.

Ellen Tokarz, a second-year medical student at UB, poses with one of her patients at the clinic in Fontaine, Haiti

Release Date: December 3, 2014

"We'll just keep going as long as we have money," says Tokarz of the effort by UB medical students to continue the clinic effort in Haiti.
Ellen Tokarz, Student
School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A woman who was hemorrhaging three weeks after a stillbirth was taken to a hospital to be treated. Another woman with advanced lymphoma was admitted to the hospital and treated for the first time. A teenage boy’s first physical exam revealed a life-threatening heart murmur.

These are a few of the stories that students from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will be sharing on Friday, Dec. 5 as part of a silent auction to support their upcoming medical mission to Fontaine, a medically underserved village in rural Haiti.

The auction will take place from 7-9:30 p.m. at UB’s Newman Center, 495 Skinnersville Road on the North Campus. Items to be auctioned include restaurant gift cards, signed apparel from the Buffalo Bills, tickets to the Buffalo Sabres and Skyzone, wine and coffee gift baskets, and themed baskets for kids.

The auction is open to UB faculty, staff and students, as well as the general public. Donations also may be made online; donors should specify that their gift is for the UB medical trip.

UB students took their first trip to Fontaine last April, examining, diagnosing and treating more than 800 patients in five days. They performed a wide range of medical procedures, from splinting and stitching a wound a teenaged girl received from a donkey bite to assisting with cyst excisions and diagnosing cataracts and urinary tract infections.

Students are headed back to Fontaine on Dec. 29 to treat hundreds more patients during another five-day clinic.

“We’ll just keep on going as long as we have money,” says Ellen Tokarz, a second-year medical student and one of the student leaders of the Department of Family Medicine’s Global Health Education Program, which sponsors the trip.

In addition to funding medications, supplies and translators for the clinic, the proceeds will make it possible for villagers with serious conditions to get to the hospital.

“A big chunk of the funds we raise pays for transporting people who need more care to the hospital,” says Tokarz.

Fontaine is a 20-minute drive from the nearest clinic and about an hour from a hospital, but most villagers never get there because they cannot afford transportation.

Any remaining funds will support the UB students’ next trip.

The students’ clinic already has dramatically improved medical care in Fontaine, where many of the adults experience their first-ever medical exam.

The students began working in Fontaine as the result of previous work done there by Vincenzo Polsinelli, now a second-year medical student at UB. While an undergraduate at Siena College, he had traveled to Haiti with Friends of Fontaine, the nonprofit organization that built the first school in the village. He now serves on its board.

Polsinelli has completed a pilot study of hypertension in the village, where he found that nearly one-third of adults living in and around Fontaine have hypertension — an “alarmingly” high rate, he says. Thanks to the UB clinic, 44 percent of the villagers with hypertension now are being treated with drugs funded by the UB effort.

David Holmes, MD, UB clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine, directs the department’s Global Health Education Program, which facilitates experiences for medical students and graduate trainees who want to work with patients in medically underserved areas of the world or with refugees in Buffalo. He also oversees the department’s focused global health scholars track for select residents.


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