Little Haiti Health Fair a success

Volunteer physicians, health care workers and medical students provided free health care and education to Miami’s Haitian community at the Little Haiti Health Fair on Saturday at the Center for Haitian Studies. The event was organized by the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine Department of Community Service at the University of Miami.

The health services provided at the fair included testing for diabetes, anemia, cholesterol and cancer and vision screening. They also offered breast exams and pelvic exams as well as mental health care with the help of psychologists.

“We come here to help serve people who don’t have access to health care,” said Lauren Frost, a third-year medical student and one of the program directors.

The Center for Haitian Studies was filled with four post tents for education groups such as the Haitian American Association Against Cancer, which provided pamphlets written in Creole to inform participants about the services being offered to them.

Mormon missionaries came to help translate back and forth from Creole to English and loud Haitian music blasted from the speakers as registered patients made their way through the various stations where volunteers examined their health.

Some of the different stations included a finger stick measure station to detect blood sugar level, a venipuncture station to screen for high cholesterol, a dermatology station to check for pre-cancerous lesions or suspicious skin growths and a vision station to identify glaucoma damage to the optic nerve.

“Haitians have a higher prevalence for coronary artery disease,” said Chris Norbet, a third year medical student. “Therefore screening for high cholesterol is vital because it causes heart attacks and strokes.”

Signs with diagrams of pre-cancerous skin growths surrounding the dermatology station were of much help in showing the patients what to look for.

“We’re just making sure we find cancers that normally would not be detected so we could get people help before it gets to that point,” said Caroline Caperton, a first year medical student.

Screening machines at the visual field testing station helped volunteers check patients for signs of glaucoma.

“Glaucoma is associated with increased pressure of the eye and loss of peripheral vision,” said Ted Leng, a first year ophthalmology resident at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “These machines help us to detect these vital signs.”

Gilberte Pierre, 61, one of the Haitian patients at the fair, utilized every service available and found she needs to get a mammogram.

“All the students are very nice and are here to help us,” she said.

Children as well as adults were examined at the Little Haiti Health Fair. The pediatrics section provided immunization, dental exams and tests to make sure the children have a healthy height-to-weight ratio.

Ty Swartzlander, the project manager, said there were people there to help with government benefits, such as Medicaid, and to keep children’s parents informed about nutrition and safety.

“Seeing how the university collaborates with the community is my favorite part of all this,” said Dr. Laurinus Pierre, the executive director of the Center for Haitian Studies. Dr. Pierre received his Masters in public health from the University of Miami.

“It is a good situation in terms of public health to improve the quality of care for a clearly underserved population,” he said.

Dr. Pierre works with Dr. Bryan Page, chairman of the board of the Center for Haitian Studies as well as chairman of the department of anthropology at the University of Miami. They helped build up the center since its conception in 1989.

“You feel like you’ve accomplished something to have people come in, get their questions answered and improve their health care,” Page said.

The Little Haiti Health Fair is just one of seven other affairs that are sponsored each year by the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, where medical students lend their services to different ethnic populations.

“Even though it’s volunteer work, it’s still part of the curriculum,” said Mark Oconnell, the dean of education at the medical school, “These fairs really give a student a chance to get to work, relate to, and understand different cultures.”

Nicole Alibayof may be contacted at

October 27, 2006


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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