The response of academic medical centers to the 2010 Haiti earthquake: The Mount Sinai School of Medicine experience

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene








On January 12, 2010, Haiti was struck by a 7.0 earthquake which left the country in a state of devastation. In the aftermath, there was an enormous relief effort in which academic medical centers (AMC) played an important role. We offer a retrospective on the AMC response through the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) experience. Over the course of the year that followed the Earthquake, MSSM conducted five service trips in conjunction with two well-established groups which have provided service to the Haitian people for over 15 years. MSSM volunteer personnel included nurses, resident and attending physicians, and specialty fellows who provided expertise in critical care, emergency medicine, wound care, infectious diseases and chronic disease management of adults and children. Challenges faced included stressful and potentially hazardous working conditions, provision of care with limited resources and cultural and language barriers. The success of the MSSM response was due largely to the strength of its human resources and the relationship forged with effective relief organizations. These service missions fulfilled the institution's commitment to social responsibility and provided a valuable training opportunity in advocacy. For other AMCs seeking to respond in future emergencies, we suggest early identification of a partner with field experience, recruitment of administrative and faculty support across the institution, significant pre-departure orientation and utilization of volunteers to fundraise and advocate. Through this process, AMCs can play an important role in disaster response. Copyright © 2012 by The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.