Dr. Thomas G. Anderson with Jane Dugan, RN, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, assisting Child Hope with volunteer medical care. Dr. Thomas G. Anderson has been a physician at Sansum Clinic since 1983 and worked in the Urgent Care center at 51 Hitchcock Way since it opened in 1989.
In March 2012, Dr. Thomas G. Anderson made his fourteenth trip to Haiti to provide much-needed volunteer medical care to a community in the heart of Port-au-Prince, the country's largest city. He works with an organization called Child Hope that provides volunteers, goods and services to this impoverished neighborhood that has still not fully recovered from the devastating earthquake of 2010.
On this trip, Dr. Anderson was joined by two members of the Sansum Clinic Urgent Care team, Jane Dugan, RN and Kirsten Ventura, RN. The three donated their time, money and services to spend an entire week operating a temporary medical clinic where they treated more than a hundred adults and children. For many this clinic is their only access to medical care of any kind.
The entire staff at Hitchcock Urgent Care and Pediatrics and other Sansum Clinic physicians generously donated funds to Dr. Anderson to purchase medications and medical supplies that this community relies upon. Other supplies are generously provided by Direct Relief International. Through these donations Dr. Anderson is able to provide care to those with injuries and to supply months' worth of essential drugs to patients with chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
The care this team offers extends well beyond their medical expertise. "The people are certainly grateful for the medical care that we provide, but despite their difficult situation, I am so impressed by the outpouring of warmth and joy that we experienced during our time there," recalls Jane Dugan, RN. "I really look forward to going back, and the most difficult part of the trip was saying goodbye to all the people who had become like family in just one short week." Jane recalls a particularly moving visit to the home of 11 year old Wilby to help celebrate his sister's birthday. Wilby and his family live in a tent with a dirt floor without running water or electricity. Despite the unbelievable poverty and daily struggles, Wilby's big resilient smile always shined above it all. Jane developed a special bond with Wilby after she noticed him and his friends playing soccer with an empty plastic soda bottle. She purchased three soccer balls and gave them to Wilby to share with his school. "It is amazing what an impact a simple soccer ball can have. These children were so joyful just having a ball to kick around," she said.
For Dr. Anderson, the visits give him a chance to offer more than just life-saving medicine and care. Thanks to the money raised by the Hitchcock team he was able to purchase more than a hundred flashlights with whistles attached for the women in the community. "Threats to personal safety are real concerns for the residents in this neighborhood that many might call a tent city," says Dr. Anderson. "The dangers of living here are very real, especially for women. We try to do everything we can to give people a better life. And we get so much back in return."
Dr. Anderson has been making regular trips to the community for the past six years and returns at least three times a year to check up on his regular patients there. One such patient is Pastor Ephraim, of the local congregation. Early last year, the 54 year old pastor suffered a heart attack and needed the specialized care of an interventional cardiologist; but there was no qualified specialist in the city. Dr. Anderson promptly flew to Port-au-Prince and returned with the Pastor to Santa Barbara, where he could receive the world class care of Sansum Clinic cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Aragon. Dr. Aragon selflessly donated his time and services to perform the tests and procedures that would save Pastor Ephraim's life. From his home more than 3,000 miles away he writes, "My community is so grateful for Dr. Anderson and all the volunteers from Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara. It means so much to us to know that people so far away not only care about us, but are willing to go so far out of their way to help."