Lately it seems like there has been an endless stream of bad news, from natural disasters to horrific displays of human violence against others humans. However, during times of extreme crises, boundaries and divisions between people seemingly dissolve, and people show extraordinary amounts of compassion, cooperation, and charity.
As part of the Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, Texas has temporarily suspended legal barriers to allow health professionals to work alongside relief teams to help victims in their state. Medical professionals from any state and all specialties are being asked to help in any way they can. In fact, despite the despair and frenzied desperation, natural disasters have historically had a way of bringing people together and highlighting altruism in populations.
This and other recent disasters are reminiscent of other emergencies such as typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or the earthquake of 2015 in Nepal when people joined together after the crisis to help those affected.
On the anniversary of 9/11, we asked SERMO physicians if they had ever traveled outside their own regions to help after an emergency. Of the respondents, 31 percent of doctors answered yes, and shared some of their personal experiences:
“It had rained a tropical rain with strong winds, so a group of friends and I took a train to the site to remove debris, sticks, woods, cans, drowned animals, boats stranded in the channels and created ramps of drainage. It was a tropical rain of a lot of liters per square meter and in a very small period of time.” – Family Medicine, Spain
“Yes. I lived in a city in Venezuela where an explosion occurred at the largest petroleum refinery in the world, which caused more than 60 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Also, last year there was an earthquake in Manabi in Ecuador. So I also collaborated, and gave medical assistance. I do not regret it and if necessary I would do it again.” – General Practice, Ecuador
“I had the privilege of helping people during a quake and subsequent tsunami on the coast of Jalisco in 1995.” – Ophthalmology, Mexico
“I have already worked with the Red Cross to help in Central America after an earthquake. I applied for the EPRUS reserve for the IRMA alert and I am waiting to carry out the replacement of the teams currently in place.” – General Surgery, France
“I did three tours in Haiti after the quake. Changed my life. Played a role in bringing the UN to justice for accidentally introducing cholera and killing 10k Haitians.” – Pediatrics, US
“ I went to Katrina disaster with FEMA. Our medical license is nationalized by the federal government.” – Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, US
“Yes, when I lived in New Zealand, went working on the South Island in the wake of the severe Christchurch earthquake. It was very rewarding, and I was amazed by how well services were organized although nobody was prepared for this in a place where until then no earthquakes happened.” – Nephrology, Australia
“I was in Nicaragua in the post-war in 1978 as a pediatric doctor.” – Pediatrics, Portugal
“Telemedicine and radio communication resources are great tools to provide health care and assistance. I used radio communication and cell phones in 2005 – 2006, in SP/SP, while working in an ambulance/ICU, making removals between municipalities in the state of São Paulo.” – Neurology, Brazil
The poll was fielded in September of 2017. 1868 physicians responded to the poll. The margin of error for the global poll was ±2%. More information about SERMO polling methodology can be found here.
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