A Heartfelt Experience

Heart Care International Offers Einstein Students New Perspective

While many automated e-mail signatures note: “Sent from my BlackBerry™ handheld mobile” or Note: Privileged/Confidential information may be contained in this message and may be subject to legal privilege,” fourth-year medical student Megan Long’s e-mail disclaimer features a quote from Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Fourth-year student Megan Long with Dr. Robert Michler, founder of Heart Care International
Fourth-year student Megan Long with Dr. Robert Michler, founder of Heart Care International

This Einstein ethos is no more evident than in the recent trip to Peru that Ms. Long undertook in conjunction with Dr. Robert Michler, chair of cardiovascular & thoracic surgery and of surgery at Einstein and director of the Montefiore-Einstein Heart Center, and his team from Heart Care International (HCI). Ms. Long was part of the team of doctors, nurses, surgeons and students who went to Peru to perform an array of complex and sophisticated cardiac surgeries on the neediest of patients – children and young adults suffering and dying from heart disease.

With a broad range of experiences that include working at Small Miracles International between undergrad and medical school, travelling to Guatemala on medical missions, spending the last four years deeply involved in Einstein’s student-run ECHO clinic, and working last summer with the Indian Public Health Service in Montana, Ms. Long thought she had a well-rounded perspective on underserved populations and lack of care. Yet the medical mission with Heart Care International (HCI) to Peru brought a whole new dimension to her medical education.

“Now that I have more medical training, I notice the differences in medical care,” said Ms. Long. She observed that, in the midst of a major metropolitan hospital, one of the biggest questions became how to toe the line of cultural and experiential differences to balance providing care with providing training for doctors.

That balance is the guiding principle behind HCI, which was founded by Dr. Michler in 1994. Dr. Michler had traveled to China to do surgical operations in 1992 and, upon his return, was asked by a Guatemalan pediatric cardiologist to accept patients from Guatemala for open heart surgery. Stymied by the costs and upheaval involved for the patients, their families and the hospital, Dr. Michler decided to bring the care to them.

He took his first team and 15,000 pounds of equipment to Guatemala City in 1994. In one week, they operated on 25 children.

“It was an extraordinary experience,” said Dr. Michler. “But, when we came back I didn’t have plans to do it again. It was so exhausting and time-consuming from a planning perspective. I hadn’t considered it. And, then, the calls started coming.” Read full article at Einstein News

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