At this writing at the end of September, Haiti has just endured another storm and 10 days of devastation following Hurricane Jeanne. Fifteen hundred people have died in the flooding and mudslides that swept the coastal region near Gonaïves, the country’s second-largest city. Today’s Miami Herald tells the deeply unsettling story of a mother who was forced to choose between rescuing her 6-year-old son and holding on to her 4-year-old daughter as she struggled to escape the rising flood waters. Now she is worrying about the child who survived. Will enough food arrive to keep the girl nourished? Will cholera and other diseases spare her?
Public health in Haiti and the impoverished country’s long history of suffering are at the heart of this issue’s cover story (“A Film to Finish,”) by alumna Amelia Shaw, M.P.H. ’03. Shaw had to leave Haiti during an earlier moment of tumult this year—the riots preceding the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February—but she returned in July to continue work on the documentary film she is making about the impact of AIDS in Haiti. Two months later, she was waiting out a different kind of storm and glad to be back, despite the element of danger. As her Haitian colleague Liony Accelus says, “Our film is really going to change the way Haitians think about treating AIDS.” As you will read, they risked their lives to make it.
Managing Editor John Curtis happened upon Shaw’s story last winter during a conversation with faculty member Kaveh Khoshnood, M.P.H. ’89, Ph.D. ’95, and has been in contact with her ever since. With the article written and laid out, we listened to the hurricane reports from Port-au-Prince in September and noted one voice with special interest. Shaw, who had worked as a summer intern at National Public Radio, was now covering the hurricane’s aftermath for NPR. In an e-mail in late September, she reported that the people in her story—Accelus, Moliere Jean and Uncle Big—all survived the storms.
Shaw’s article shows one way in which Yale has an impact on the world of health and medicine. We’re impressed by her reporting and writing and proud to have her byline in Yale Medicine. The best epilogue to her story would be a healthier Haiti.
September’s news also brought a happy footnote to another celluloid story. Gretchen K. Berland, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine who is also a documentary filmmaker, was awarded a $500,000 “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The five-year, no-strings-attached fellowship will support her work on projects similar to Rolling, in which she provided cameras to three people who use wheelchairs and created a compelling portrait of their everyday lives. Rolling was the subject of a feature article (“Life on Wheels”) in the Summer 2004 issue of Yale Medicine.