FROM THE COLLECTIONS
Our Man in Haiti
Amos Charles returns to his country of origin.
By Eileen O'Gara-Kurtis
Photography by Karen Philippi
Haiti runs in Amos Charles’s blood. He was born there and spent the first 19 years of his life there. And, as a physician, he understands the needs of patients in crisis.
Still, nothing prepared him for what he encountered in earthquake-shattered Port-au-Prince in January.
“The streets were full of people trying to survive, a lot of homeless people, people left with nothing,” he says. “The numbers were astronomical, and we were stunned by the extent of the injuries.”
Intensifying the impact, Charles was experiencing the scene—up close and devastatingly vivid—without the digital buffer that had introduced most of us to the disaster. “I don’t have cable and I don’t watch much television,” he explains.
On January 15, Charles, a pulmonologist, chief of the hospitalist division of the Department of Medicine at the Providence VA Medical Center, and a clinical associate professor of medicine, embarked on what turned out to be a two-day journey to the heart of the disaster. Traveling with a group of Haitian physicians, nurses, and other health care providers, and slowed by air traffic restrictions and gridlock on the ground, he arrived at L’hopital Universite d’Etat d’Haiti (the General State University Hospital) in Port-au-Prince on January 17—five
days after the quake.
Life at the hospital was chaotic.
Alpert Medical School