Friday, April 30, 2010

A Pharmacist's View from Haiti

I have a special treat for you today. Below is a Guest Post from Ro Brual, a pharmacist and longtime Drug Channels reader.

Ro recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Haiti as part of the Haiti Medical Mission Team at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. He has a fascinating and inspiring story that is well worth your time. Ro also sent me some heart-breaking photos from his trip.

Please consider making a donation to support Ro's work with the Haiti Medical Mission team. Details at the St. Elizabeth Seton Haiti webpage.

A Pharmacist's View from Haiti
by Ro Brual

My name is Ro Brual. I am a registered pharmacist residing in Carmel, Indiana, which is just north of Indianapolis. I have been blessed to be part of the Haiti Medical Mission Team at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. I have made ten mission trips to Haiti since 2003.

In October of 2003, Seton made our first medical mission trip to Haiti. I was part of a mission team that included two pharmacists, three physicians, six nurses, and two experienced Haiti travelers.

Examining a patient with a forehead abcess in Haiti

During our inaugural mission trip, our team treated over one thousand patients for five clinic days. This was the first time that most people had ever seen a health-care professional. Almost all of the patients that we treated complained of gastrointestinal problems due to the poor quality of water. There were many adults with hypertension, and there numerous adults and children with respiratory and skin infections. Seton has made annual medical mission trips to Duval since 2003.

Several years ago, Seton also established a permanent clinic and pharmacy at St. Genevieve. Two nurses and one part-time physician staffed the clinic, which included a stocked pharmacy. This clinic was the first time ever that the people of Duval had full-time access to healthcare in this mountainous region of Haiti.

Ro Brual at St. Gevevieve Pharmacy in Haiti

As the pharmacist for the medical mission team, my role was to help procure medications for our clinic through individual and corporate donations. Commonly used medications for the clinic were antacids, antibiotics, antihypertensives, worm medications (i.e. Vermox), and vitamin supplements. Intravenous fluids were commonly used to treat dehydration. Since approximately 40,000 people live in this mountain range, Seton opened up a second satellite clinic and pharmacy at St. Francis Chapel. This second clinic provided access to people who lived at higher mountain elevations because some people walked up to eight hours to go to the Duval Clinic.

In February of this year, three Seton parishioners—Brian McDermott, Mark Duray, and I—were able to go to our sister parish, St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Duval, Haiti, which is approximately twenty miles east of Port-au-Prince. This was our parish’s first mission trip to Haiti since the devastating earthquake that occurred in January.

Unfortunately, dozens of parishioners from St. Genevieve parish lost their lives during the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010. Both the church and rectory collapsed from the earthquake. My friend Jimmy who helped maintain the church and clinic was killed instantly, and his body was found just several feet from the door of the rectory trying to escape. Eleven people died instantly in Duval when a landslide occurred at the riverbed, which is just behind St. Genevieve Church. Their bodies have not been recovered.

Examining a foot injury from the earthquake in Haiti

The clinic and pharmacy at St. Francis Chapel was damaged beyond repair. Fortunately, the clinic and pharmacy at St. Genevieve remained standing. However, two of the clinic walls had to be rebuilt. Since all commerce stopped in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake, the pharmacy in Duval was unable to replenish its inventory. Thus, the pharmacy ran out of the much needed meds a few days after the earthquake.

Our mission team in February and a subsequent Seton Medical Mission Team in March brought dozens of duffel bags with medications and medical supplies to Haiti. Replenishment is still an issue in Haiti because the few pharmaceutical wholesalers and medical suppliers that have opened up since the earthquake occurred still have many product shortages. Relief efforts continue to come into Haiti, but one of the issues is that relief aid in the mountains outside of Port-au-Prince is spotty at best.

However, the people of Haiti are resilient. Although there has been loss of life and property, the people of Duval are moving on with life with what little they have. Also, the Haiti Medical Mission Team at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is committed to provide for the healthcare needs of the people of St. Genevieve. Donations for the clinic and pharmacy in Duval, Haiti are always accepted at the contact information and website listed below.

Respectfully submitted by:
Ro Brual, R.Ph.
Haiti Medical Mission Team, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
Carmel, Indiana


  1. This is an amazing story. Thank you for posting it. And thanks to Ro for his work in Haiti. He is a credit to pharmacists everywhere.

  2. Aemad AslamApril 30, 2010

    Excellent story. Great work on his part!

  3. AnonymousMay 03, 2010


    Nice job in bringing some truly important stuff to this blog. All the ranting and raving about mail order, margin shrink, and PBM's is of course nothing when you are dealing with human lives.

    Smart move.

  4. Thanks. It's an amazing story that puts our day-to-day issues into perspective. I'm a bit disappointed not to see more comments on the blog. Luckily, Ro tells me that fellow pharmacists from across the country have already reached out to donate products or money.