UPMC Residents Build Radiology Programs in Haiti

The timing wasn’t good.

In August 2016, two Philips MX 4000 CT Scanners left port in Amsterdam, bound for Haiti. They arrived in September, just as category five Hurricane Matthew battered the nation’s southwestern coast.

“For two days, we didn’t know where the CT scanners were,” said Michael Yannes, MD, a UPMC radiology resident and leader of the Pittsburgh chapter of RAD-AID International, an organization dedicated to improving radiology services in developing countries.

For several years, Dr. Yannes and fellow UPMC radiology resident Chijindu Nworgu, MD, have worked to improve access and quality of radiology in Haiti. In April, they helped to successfully lobby Philips Medical to provide the nation with the two new CT scanners.

And now they didn’t know where the 4,000-pound machines were.

“Within a few days, the scanners arrived at the hospitals, despite all of the destruction,” Dr. Yannes said. “That speaks to the resourcefulness and the spirit of the people of Haiti.”

Building a Medical Program

As a fourth-year medical student in 2011, Dr. Yannes began volunteering for medical missions in Haiti, offering primary care services.

When he began his radiology residency at UPMC, he had loftier goals in mind: To build radiology programs in a nation with fewer than 20 practicing radiologists.

To do this, Dr. Nworgu and Dr. Yannes became involved with RAD-AID, forming a Pittsburgh chapter of the organization. They travel to Haiti twice a year and lead online learning programs for 16 Haitian radiology residents — the only radiology residency in the Caribbean nation.

“About 4 billion people in the world lack access to radiology services,” Dr. Yannes said. “When you examine any health care system, radiology underpins all of medicine. It’s the linchpin of medical decision-making.”

Radiology is a medical specialty that requires infrastructure — a stable electrical grid, specialized rooms to house equipment, technologists to operate the machines, and trained radiologists. The new Philips scanners, which have not yet been installed, offer advanced, cross-sectional imaging.

“It’s a very big process and this is just the starting point,” said Dr. Nworgu, who first traveled to Haiti in 2011 for mission work.  A native of Nigeria, he said that he is dedicated to helping to spread radiological services to the developing world.

“We have a lot of people in Haiti who are dedicated to this,” he said. “And the residents are so appreciative.”

Looking to the Future

The focus of Dr. Nworgu and Dr. Yannes’ work is education: teaching Haitian residents and technologists to eventually practice independently.

The machines are located at a private, non-profit clinic in Caracol, Haiti, and Hopital la Providence Gonaives, a public hospital in Gonaives, Haiti. Both hospitals are working to secure funding for the installation and operation of the CT machines.

Dr. Yannes’ and Nworgu’s work is increasingly complex: They develop curriculum, work with Haitian engineers and hospital administrators, and ultimately hope that new UPMC radiology residents will continue the chapter’s international work in the future.

Dr. Yannes said he is hopeful that at least one of the CT scanners will be operational in the next six months.

“We’re trying to build a program that can ultimately be run independently by Haitians, for Haitians,” he said. “The point is not to give them fish, but to teach them how to fish.”

About the Doctors

Dr. Nworgu and Dr. Yannes are both third-year radiology residents at the UPMC radiology residency program, working at UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Shadyside, UPMC Mercy, and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. For more information on RAD-AID International, visit rad-aid.org.