Ep14 (part 1) - International Medicine and Earthquake Relief in Haiti, Dr. Ron Israelski at Orthopedic Relief Services International
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On this episode we had the opportunity to join Dr. Ronald Israelski at the headquarters of Orthopedic Relief Services International (ORSI) to discuss his work in international healthcare. Just 2 days before our session, on August 14, 2021, a large earthquake hit Haiti with a force even greater than that which devastated this already vulnerable country on January 12, 2010. During the discussion the texts and phone calls were pouring in nonstop from Haiti and Dr. Israelski’s American colleagues in their efforts to respond to the catastrophe that ORSI was specifically created to address.
Dr. Israelski begins the discussion by sharing his journey to becoming a physician leader in orthopedic surgery. He readily draws the connection between his fascination with building things as a child and his innate desire to help people in crises as the impetus for his medical career.
Dr. Israelski is an experienced practicing orthopedist who has created a legacy of expanding both the clinical and education infrastructure of his community. An Assistant Clinical Professor at NYU for well over 20 years, he brings both the academic and frontline community-based mindset to his over 30 years of orthopedic work with a focus on hand surgery. During his 10 years serving as Chairman of the Dept of Orthopedic surgery at ORMC (now Garnet Health) in the Greater Hudson Valley of NY, he proved to be a medical pioneer. Starting with the creation of a highly specialized joint and bone replacement center in 2005, he then became the driving force behind both the region’s new medical school in collaboration with Touro University and an accredited residency training program at the region’s newest and largest hospital -ORMC. This academic program established improved Health standards, Economic Vitality, and Educational Opportunities formerly unavailable in the Hudson Valley region.
Dr. Israeski shares the poignant moment on January 12, 2010 that dramatically turned his professional focus beyond the U.S. borders to the neighboring country of Haiti. This single event, which lasted only about thirty seconds, killed between 250,000 and 300,000 people, left well over 1,000,000 homeless, and critically injured hundreds of thousands more. On that day he decided to roll up his sleeves and join other orthopedic colleagues in what can only be described as a horrific war zone ravished by one of the most life-changing environmental catastrophes of this century. He clearly explains the history and dynamics of this former land of riches troubled by an abusive colonial past, raping of he environment, a legacy of racism, corruption and detrimental outside poltical manipulation, now facing two monumental environmental catastrophies.
Dr. Ron, as his colleagues call him, explains how this initial venture in 2010 grew into the medical relief program ORSI that was being called back to action for this second earthquake right in the midst of our conversation. He explains how ORSI was built on the fundamentals he refers to as ICE - Build/Support Infrastructure, Clinical Work, Educational Support. The ORSI team has deployed over 30 teams to Haiti and raised millions of dollars of relief. It serves as the model for international medical care that is specifically guided by and addresses the needs of those affected.
Join us next time as we continue this intense dialogue with Dr Israelski in Part 2 of this timely episode where we venture into the need for Humane and Compassionate healthcare at home and abroad.
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(This episode will also available in video format on Youtube @drfethkemd).