SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Dr. Jory Desir sat before an ultrasound machine Wednesday at Maine Medical Partners’ urology practice in South Portland. With his 6-foot, 8-inch frame tucked onto a small stool, he learned how to operate the lifesaving equipment that will soon follow him back home to Haiti.
Desir is in Maine for five weeks working with Maine Medical Center’s urology team to build up his skills before returning to Justinien Hospital in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
“In Haiti, there are a lot of children who need treatment, surgical treatment, but it’s very difficult to get it,” Desir said. “I would like to have some skills to help them.”
Desir recently completed his residency training at Justinen, a financially strapped government hospital on Haiti’s northern coast, followed by further training in Amiens, France. He is one of only about 15 urologists serving the country’s population of 10 million.
Desir is staying with Dr. Samuel Broaddus, director of MMC’s division of urology, who is personally funding Desir’s trip to Maine. Broaddus has traveled the world volunteering to train general surgeons to perform prostate and bladder surgeries, and returns to Haiti regularly through his work with Konbit Sante, a Portland-based volunteer medical partnership.
While in Maine, Desir is making rounds and scrubbing in for cases in the operating room as well as learning new techniques in endoscopic and robotic surgery.
“We speak different languages, in terms of French and English, and yet we speak the same language with urology,” Broaddus said. “The bladders in Haiti look the same as they do here.”
The goal is to shore up Desir’s skills in basic diagnoses, such as urinary retention, bladder cancer, complex kidney stones and congenital urologic problems in children, Broaddus said.
“Part of it is just improving his confidence level,” he said of Desir. “He’s seen it done here, he’s seen multiple surgeons within our group operate, he’s seen how we may differ with some of our techniques. Hopefully, he’ll take back the best that he’s seen and use that to his own advantage for the benefit of the Cap-Haitien patients.”
The catastrophic earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010 didn’t affect Cap-Haitien nearly as badly as the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Desir said. But the city is reeling from a cholera outbreak and the hospital has trouble accessing basic supplies.
“It’s been a longstanding problem, the earthquake simply made it more challenging,” Broaddus said.
The ultrasound machine MMC plans to donate will have a significant effect at Justinien, Haiti’s second-largest hospital, he said.
“This will be the workhouse down there, there’s nothing like this ultrasound in Cap-Haitien … Being able to diagnose prostate cancer in northern Haiti is impossible now, without this type of technology,” Broaddus said.
When he returns to Cap-Haitien, Desir will be promoted to hospital urologist at Justinien, which serves a population of about 850,000.
For now, he’s enjoying the hospitality of the MMC staff and the warm Maine weather, he said.
“The weather is nice. I bring the sun with me,” Desir said, grinning. “The sun followed me from Haiti.”