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Reading the terrible stories and seeing the horrific photos from Haiti in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake has inspired some Canadian doctors to consider donating more than just money: many want to travel to Haiti and put their medical expertise to use. How to go about doing that, however, is not simple. To help you figure it out, we spoke to some aid agencies to learn how Canadian physicians can volunteer to help in Haiti.
Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders): MSF may be the first aid organization that comes to mind but, partly because of its high profile, MSF has a large contingent of experienced physicians who’ve already been sent to Haiti. That doesn’t mean, however, that your offer to volunteer isn’t welcome. In fact, MSF is compiling a database of Canadian medical professionals who are available to help in Haiti.
They are looking for French- or Creole-speaking doctors (particularly orthopedic surgeons) with some international experience and a minimum of four weeks available. Shorter deployments aren’t possible. MSF is also looking to reestablish a free obstetrics clinic it ran in Haiti prior to the quake, for which it will need French-speaking ob/gyns.
But even if you don’t meet MSF’s criteria for deployment at the moment, you’re encouraged nevertheless to sign on to help out in the future, since MSF anticipates being in Haiti for years and years to come. “You don’t have to be there when Anderson Cooper's there,” Ben Chapman, the organization’s director of human resources in Canada, says. “We will still need people there when the journalists have gone away.” (800) 982-7903;
Partners in Health: This Boston-based medical aid organization is one of the most respected aid organizations in Haiti. And just because they’re an American outfit doesn’t mean they won’t take Canadians. They will. Eagerly.
In fact, Canadians may be at an advantage securing a spot with PIH compared to Americans, since the organization is currently only accepting French-speaking physicians to travel to Haiti – and preferably Creole-speaking, though that is not required.
Their urgent needs at the moment include orthopedic surgeons, but other specialists are in demand, and PIH’s long-term needs will include physicians of all kinds. At the moment, PIH asks that volunteers commit to a minimum of 10 days in Haiti. Volunteers who sign on now likely wouldn’t be deployed until anywhere up to a month from now. (617) 432-5256; http://standwithhaiti.org/haiti/news-entry/update-on-volunteer-request/
Médecins du monde: The Canadian branch of this organization has put out an urgent call for physician volunteers to travel to Haiti. They are currently looking for French- or Creole-speaking GPs, emergency physicians and general surgeons to work there for a minimum of two weeks. (514) 281-8998;
The UK office has also posted a request for volunteers at
Canadian Red Cross: The Canadian Red Cross does not send volunteer physicians to Haiti. If doctors want to work with the Canadian Red Cross there, they must apply to become a medical delegate and, after a week-long training course, could be placed on a emergency-respond rapid deployment team.
For more international volunteer listings, visit ReliefWeb’s Haiti vacancies page at
This article was originally published by Doctor's Review magazine. to read more from Doctor's Review about medical volunteering.
Posted by David Elkins and others at 12:00 AM
Labels: Doctors Without Borders, Haiti, humanitarianism