COM professor teaching CPR in Haiti

College of Medicine and LiveBeyond Partner Together to Teach CPR & AED Training in Haiti for President Martelly’s Staff

May 6, 2015

Jerry Livingston , Ph.D., M.S.N, RN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, recently returned from Haiti with far fewer bags than he left with. He traveled to Haiti lugging eight CPR mannequins, eight valve masks, several automated external defibrillators (AED) and many other supplies needed to teach CPR and AED courses to the staff and security teams of Haiti President Michel Martelly and his wife, Sophia.

The Haiti-based, humanitarian organization, LiveBeyond, and Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, hosted CPR & AED trainings at the presidential palace and several hospitals and nursing schools in and around Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The courses were taught by Livingston and coordinated by College of Medicine Adjunct Assistant Professor David Vanderpool, M.D., CEO and founder of LiveBeyond. Two fourth-year Texas A&M medical students, Anthony Pickrel and Jade Kumar, demonstrated proper technique and assisted with one-on-one teachings with the attendants.

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, there is not an option to call 911 in an emergency situation. This training course provided the presidential staff with the knowledge and skills to perform CPR and AED operations in the event of emergency situations.

Haiti lacks a health care infrastructure, and in remote areas, medical care resources are even more limited. LiveBeyond and Texas A&M College of Medicine want to not only help treat the people of Haiti, but help develop the health care providers of the region to further expand the reach of preventative measures and treatment capabilities.

“The health care in Haiti is something most people in the U.S. could never imagine,” Livingston said. “Very few people have access to health care, and once they can access it, chances are they may not receive the help they need. By giving providers the tools to accurately perform even simple things, like CPR, we are saving lives in Haiti and planting the seeds for continued growth and development for health care in Haiti.”

Along with educating the president’s staff, several other medical groups from around the area received training, totaling 125 health care workers. Medics with a newly added medical flight program, nurses at a local hospital, and local nursing students from a Port-au-Prince nursing school all participated in the training courses throughout the week.

“For many, this was the first time they were learning basic life support skills, and they all were very engaged with the lessons,” Pickrel said. “I believe our CPR team empowered these individuals with a new skill set that will benefit many Haitians in the future. The LiveBeyond organization is doing a tremendous job to improve the health of Haitians, not only providing medical care to locals but also educating the providers.”

Livingston also created a manual to accompany the trainings, available in both English and French. And all participants of the programs received certificates from the College of Medicine, signed by Paul Ogden, M.D., interim dean of the College of Medicine.

“The staff will leave this training equipped with the ability to perform life-saving skills in critical events,” Vanderpool said. “In emergency situations, every second matters, and they will now be equipped with the ability to deliver cardiac life support.”

Vanderpool added, “The value of this type of education is infinite. Whether it’s a Haitian medical professional or one of President Martelly’s staff members, this knowledge is a sustainable product that they will able to indefinitely use and teach others to save more lives in Haiti.”

In addition to helping the people of Haiti, this partnership allows medical students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center to experience something they could never see in the United States and it expands not only their education, but their humanitarian approach and understanding of the needs of patients across populations.

“This is something they’d never experience back home or in the classroom,” Livingston said. “While there is an immediate educational opportunity here for students to learn, we’re also really excited about creating and instilling within our students an understanding of all people and their need for health care. An experience like this goes far beyond anything we could provide them in the classroom, and we feel this will make the best doctors possible.”

“While our original intention of going to Haiti was for a medical mission trip, it turned out to be so much more,” Kumar said. “We learned firsthand that accessible medical care is a necessity to improve the lives of the underserved, but also that a focus on education and global partnerships are just as vital to growth and development.”

Kumar and Pickrel were in Haiti for a month working with LiveBeyond as a mission trip partnership between the organization and the College of Medicine. Kumar said of the CPR/AED training, “Teaching nurses, security personnel, and even doctors to help themselves and others was an eye-opening experience because it revealed just how much we take for granted in a country with health care infrastructure like the United States.”

Livingston further explained that the CPR and AED courses taught this April were a pilot program to launch a series of courses in Haiti, to be held quarterly, and later expand into an interprofessional health care mission between the College of Medicine and College of Nursing.

“I hope every Texas A&M medical student will have a similar opportunity in the future,” Pickrel said. “This experience forced me out of my comfort zone and showed me what medicine is like for so many of the world’s people.  It was an eye-opening experience, and my overall perspective of the world is forever changed.”

— Katherine Hancock