Graham School News

International Emergency Response: Medical Teams Responding to the Haiti Earthquake

UChicago Master of Science in Threat and Response Management alum Chrissy B. talks about her role in responding to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. She explains that understanding the context and landscape where a disaster has occurred is essential for an effective response.

Video Transcript | Chrissy Babcock, MScTRM Alumna, Describes Lessons from International Emergency Response to Haiti Earthquake:

In 2010, there was a very large earthquake in Haiti. Haiti was really challenging in that it didn't have a lot of infrastructure to begin with, and so when the earthquake hit, and all the buildings collapsed, the port was not accessible--the airport was not accessible. Humanitarian aid and international assistance was necessary.

I deployed as part of the University of Chicago Medical Response Team. We coordinated with Harvard and between the two institutions, built a field hospital  in Haiti. In that hospital, we provided care to thousands of patients.

You forget sometimes when you think about working globally that you don't have the luxuries that we have here--not everyone has clean water, and not everyone has food that's available. Not everybody has shelter. 

So, local response was really local people that were carrying their friends and family members away from the rubble into whatever healthcare capacity they could find.

Learning to collaborate and communicate with other agencies is the key. If you're working in your own silo, you will never accomplish anything, and you want to be very careful whenever you're working globally to not build a parallel system to something that already exists in the country.

You can also make sure you never take resources away from the patients and people that need them most.

Make sure you establish a local partner that can help you get buy-in from the community you're working in can help you understand the nuances with the different cultural differences as well as
have local people employed by your project because it will help make it sustainable. 

I learned a lot in this program about domestic response as the basis of disaster response and that's really helped me in my work globally because it teaches you some of the fundamentals that are important to understand if you are interested in accute disaster, disaster response, especially globally.