A story collaboration with Dr. Jolius Thelusme, Dr. Ted Higgins and the Medical Outreach staff at Americares
“Dr. Jolius just completed the first cystoscopy at our Surgicenter and most likely the first in this region of Haiti. The equipment worked beautifully. This is good, and believe me, Haiti needs good news”…
Ted Higgins, MD
One piece of medical equipment, in this case a cystoscope, in a local doctor’s hands can make all the difference in the health of a patient.
Dr. Jolius, the staff urologist, at Higgins Brothers Surgicenter for Hope in Fonds Parisien, Haiti, has trained on this new critical piece of equipment, and can now expand the diagnostic and treatment capabilities of the Surgicenter that opened in 2016. Americares Medical Outreach has been working with Dr. Higgins for several years and through the generous support of Olympus, provided the cystoscope. Since 2018, the Program has been donating Olympus endoscopic equipment to qualified partners. To ensure sustainability, recipients of Olympus equipment must ensure that teaching and training will take place and that the facility will be able to maintain and repair the equipment.
This singular victory for healthcare in Haiti is one more step on a road to provide quality surgical care to the people of this rural region. It comes during turbulent times for a country that has endured earthquakes, hurricanes, cholera, and ongoing social, economic and political upheaval.
In spite of these many challenges, the entire staff of doctors, nurses, technicians, maintenance, and engineers at the Surgicenter demonstrate, on a daily basis, the remarkable resilience and resourcefulness that characterizes the people of Haiti. They strive to build a growing medical facility to serve more than 80,000 Haitians in and around Fonds Parisien, where people need medical attention but have little access to care. The members of the staff have never lacked the talent, skill or commitment; they lacked resources in the form of stronger medical facilities with ongoing access to medicines, supplies, equipment and training.
In Fonds Parisien, Haiti, Jolius Thelusme has demonstrated that commitment. As a child, Jolius needed access to education, so although his mountain village near Fonds Parisien was poor, he found a way to attend school. Jolius did so well there that he was able to go on and attend medical school in Port Au Prince and then begin a urology residency at the General Hospital there. Dr. Jolius subsequently did urology fellowship work in Miami. At that point in his career, a new opportunity arose with a new medical facility.
When Dr. Ted Higgins founded the Higgins Brothers Surgicenter for Hope in 2016, he brought surgeons from his own surgical group and others that he had worked with in other specialties, to help teach new procedures to surgical residents.
In 2017, several of the fine surgical and anesthesia residents were finishing their training. In order to encourage them to continue practicing surgery in Haiti, Dr. Higgins offered them an opportunity to develop their practice at the Surgicenter, allowing the facility to remain open daily on a 24/7 schedule. This established the Surgicenter as the only surgical facility running continuously in this entire region of Haiti.
Dr Jolius had always wanted to help his community. In fact, he asked if he could work at the Surgicenter because this area was his home. He saw the opportunity to provide healthcare to people who had little or no access. But it hasn’t been an easy road.
Because his wife and children live near Port Au Prince, and gangs control road travel, he has needed to limit his visits home. Many of the healthcare providers face the same predicament. They refuse to close down the 24/7 Surgicenter and emergency care facility, however, so many of the staff spend weeks at a time on campus working. They find ways to help each other navigate the daily challenges of meeting basic needs while working away from their homes. They do this so all patients needing surgery receive it whether or not they can pay and so the Surgicenter can provide continuous medical and trauma services. The conditions have been hazardous, but their determination is unshakable.
Dr. Higgins is an Americares Medical Outreach partner. Through that partnership, he received the donated Olympus cystoscope and related equipment. Medical Outreach is a long-serving Americares Program that donates medicines and medical products to U.S. licensed volunteer medical teams traveling abroad to provide primary care, perform surgeries, respond to emergencies and strengthen local healthcare capacity.
Americares has supported Dr. Higgins’ work in Haiti since 2018 with several donations of medicine and supplies. The donation of the cystoscope demonstrates the value of building long term partnerships with the shared goal to help provide healthcare to a community in need.
In the photo of Dr. Jolius with the cystoscope, if you look closely at the wall behind, you will see a Safe Surgery checklist – a product offered through the Americares Medical Outreach Safe Surgery Initiative. Implementation of the checklist can minimize common and avoidable risks for patients undergoing surgery, potentially improving their surgical outcomes. It was provided by Americares and implemented by the local and visiting medical professionals at this remarkable facility.
Dr. Ted Higgins’ history in Haiti begins in 1981. He always felt a connection to the Haitian people, their culture, and their needs. After a three-month hospital rotation there, he began to organize regular trips to Haiti to provide healthcare to rural farm workers.
He soon discovered a critical need for surgical services which, in 1992, led to work in a borrowed clinic which provided those services. After the devastating earthquake in 2010, he began bringing surgical teams down to Haiti to operate in a small delivery room, four times a year. Because of the lack of surgical care in Haiti, patients travelled from all over when surgical teams were present. Medical students and surgical residents from the General Hospital in Port Au Prince joined the teams. This began a teaching experience which developed into a plan to create more surgical operating space to handle the large demand.
In 2015, the construction of the Higgins Brothers Surgicenter for Hope began with the dedication and actual official opening of the Surgicenter in December 2016. From that point on, Dr. Higgins and his local medical staff worked with the visiting medical teams to build a long-term and sustainable surgical capability through the new facility.
Visiting medical teams teach and train on complex cases and the facility treats patients referred in from all over Haiti. Additionally, a scholarship program was created which enables young, talented Haitian students to become doctors, nurses and medical technicians. The Surgicenter continues to grow and expand, serving more people in the region with more high-quality services.
Americares is honored to support this work and shares the commitment of Dr. Higgins, Dr. Jolius and all of their colleagues who focus on long-term sustainable care. Their work and the work of so many others help to move us closer to the vision of healthcare for all.
Americares Medical Outreach donates medicines, medical products and educational resources to U.S. licensed medical volunteers who travel abroad to provide primary care, perform surgeries, respond to emergencies and strengthen local healthcare capacity. Americares has supported this work for over three decades in more than 80 countries.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Higgins, Dr. Jolius and all of the staff at the Surgicenter, be sure to visit their website or follow them on Facebook.
September 20, 2023
September 28, 2022: “I looked down the street and saw this big black thing coming — it was literally a wall of water,” says Jo, a retired nurse who lives in Cape Coral, Florida. Minutes later, the filthy storm surge from Hurricane Ian swept into her home, swirling around her ankles, and Jo ran through the flood to safety at her neighbor’s elevated house.
September 19, 2023
Americares and the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), today announced health clinics in Arizona, Florida and Louisiana will pilot a program to protect the most vulnerable patients from the health impacts of climate change, including extreme heat.
September 14, 2023
Americares is training more than 350 school teachers, social workers, counselors, psychologists and administrative staff to better identify, assess and respond to the mental health needs of students dealing with the psychological effects caused by major storms. The Americares Mental Health and Psychosocial Support team based in San Juan began the trainings in five schools across Bayamón, Morovis, Naranjito, Orocovis and Toa Alta.
September 13, 2023
Stamford, Conn. – Sept. 13, 2023 – Americares and Quest Diagnostics, with the Quest Diagnostics Foundation, are teaming up to provide no-cost diagnostic services and expanded telehealth services to free and charitable clinics across the United States to reduce health disparities in underserved communities.