Skip to contents
In This Issue:
Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in October 2010 for a six-week trip when she received a phone call that would change her outlook on medicine and shape her career.
Hours away, in St. Marc, several hundred patients had been admitted to the town’s 130-bed hospital in just 48 hours. Morse, a resident in BWH’s Doris and Howard Hiatt Residency in Global Health Equity and Internal Medicine, threw some clothes in a backpack and offered to make the trip, never expecting she would find herself on the front lines of a cholera epidemic.
“It was unbelievable. I was watching a public health disaster unfold day by day and saw how hospital staff and volunteers mobilized resources,” she said. “In Haiti, there was a lot of concern right after the earthquake, but this was 10 months later and not in the expected location.”
Morse spent the next four weeks caring for cholera patients at St. Nicholas Hospital in St. Marc. The epidemic continues to this day, fuelled by poor sanitation and lack of clean water.
Morse, one of seven 2012 graduates of the Hiatt Residency, plans to continue her work in Haiti, caring for those who need it most.
The residency is a four-year program that leads to eligibility for certification by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and completion of a masters degree in public health through the Harvard School of Public Health. The program honors Howard Hiatt, MD, whose leadership and advocacy for global health equity spans a career of more than 50 years, and his late wife Doris.
“My greatest achievement has been my connection with this program,” Hiatt said, during the 2012 residency graduation ceremony this spring. “It’s such a privilege to watch what these residents accomplish.”
Residents in the program have worked in countries including Rwanda, Peru, Botswana and Guatemala. They are challenged to address the economic, social, political and environmental determinants of patients’ health in resource-poor settings. Not only do their patients face infectious diseases like HIV and TB, they also lack regular access to clean water, suitable housing and adequate nutrition.
“It’s bad enough to have cancer, but cancer and poverty?” said graduate Christiane Haeffele, MD, MPH, who spent her residency in Rwanda treating oncology patients. “Many patients simply do not have options for treatment.”
“In Rwanda, the challenges are not just treating and preventing HIV, building hospitals, pioneering cancer and neonatology care and wiping out malaria and malnutrition,” said Neil Gupta, MD, MPH. “So much is needed, like mandating helmets for motorcycle drivers and laying fiberoptic cable throughout the country.It’s about building social cohesion in a country that 18 years ago had none at all.”
The residency program, which marked its sixth year this spring, has a total of 26 graduates. The 2012 graduating residents are Matthew Craven, MD, Ranvir Dhillon, MD, Neil Gupta, MD, MPH, Christiane Haeffele, MD, MPH, Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, Jonathan Parr, MD, MPH, and Sara Selig, MD.
“These experts are working for the underserved and addressing health disparities at the root,” said Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity. “I can say there is nothing more gratifying than seeing these residents complete their training. These people are on the frontlines, standing between people and suffering.”
One decade ago, the field of global health barely existed, Farmer explained, but programs like the Hiatt residency continue to grow.
“We are celebrating not only your completion of this demanding program, but also your contributions during residency,” BW/F President Betsy Nabel, MD, told the residents. “You have an extraordinary amount of commitment, and I know you all will go on and do us proud.”
Morse expressed her appreciation for the program: “I am so grateful to be part of this program. It gave me the opportunity to gain clinical and cultural experiences I would never have otherwise had.”