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Yale team provides tsunami relief

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2005 - Spring


Within five days of the December 26 tsunami that devastated coastal areas in South Asia, six doctors and a public health worker from the New Haven area were on their way to Sri Lanka. Led by Ramin Ahmadi, M.D., M.P.H. ’97, an assistant clinical professor of medicine and founder of the Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., the team included Joanne Cossitt, director of the Griffin Center for Health and Human Rights; Padmini D. Ranasinghe, M.D., a resident at Griffin Hospital, and Anu Walaliyadda, M.D., a physician at the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, both from Sri Lanka; Monique A. Tello, M.D., a pediatrics fellow at Yale; Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D. ’55, HS ’61, clinical professor of surgery; and Majid Sadigh, M.D., associate clinical professor of medicine.

Nuland compared the disaster response to that of 9/11, when emergency rooms geared up for patients who never came. Most people, he said, were killed outright by the tsunami, and those with major injuries were already hospitalized by the time the team arrived. “The surgical patients I saw had been digging in the debris, looking for bodies,” he said. Nuland debrided wounds and applied antiobiotic ointments and dressings. His colleagues treated hundreds of patients with respiratory infections, diarrhea, dysentery, malaria and other diseases.

A major concern for survivors is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On their return on January 15, Ahmadi and Nuland began efforts to send mental health professionals to Sri Lanka to train local health care workers in the treatment of PTSD. Rather than medical care, Nuland said, “it is psychiatric care that is needed.”

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