Dear Inova family:
“I can’t find baby Jean anywhere.” “Oh, he died,” said the nurse matter-of-factly. “No, it can’t be!” said the slight pediatrician, pointing to a picture of the child on her camera. “Oh, you mean that baby over there! He’s doing great. The swelling has gone down, his eyes are open and his father is holding him, a big smile on his face.” Baby Leslie was lying in her bassinet and the doctor said she had a bleed in her brain. It looked bad, the doctor told the scared father. The baby was likely to be blind and, possibly, deaf. She would almost certainly be intellectually damaged and possibly never live outside an institution. The father was devastated and sat silently, soaking in what the grim news meant.
During my recent trip to Haiti, stories like this played out across the country, as volunteers from the Inova family and other concerned individuals worked with the Community Coalition for Haiti (CCH) – funded in part by the Inova Haiti Relief fund – to provide healthcare and other relief services. I wanted you to know what your gifts and your colleagues have been doing in
Haiti, helping that desperately poor country recover from the devastating 7.1 earthquake it suffered on Jan. 10. It’s a story you will want to hear because you made it possible. Your colleagues on the ground and your generous giving made it possible for all of us at Inova to say, “We made a difference” in the lives of some of the poorest and sickest people on the planet.
With your support, groups from CCH worked to provide primary care, in the shell of a destroyed hospital, to babies like the ones mentioned above. Other volunteers
went to a rural community where no doctor or health professional of any kind had been since years before the earthquake. They passed out medicine, and cared for sick children in an orphans’ home that specialized in rescuing children from the earthquake as well as from sexual and physical abuse.
Others worked to repair wells for clean water and to complete the construction of a place where future volunteers will live while delivering healthcare services and doing similar work. Passing a tent city for displaced persons (called “Obamaville” by the locals) brought my mind briefly back to the “earthquake” of health-reform legislation that was sure to impact U.S. health systems like Inova, as much as the earthquake that hit Haiti. I don’t mean to suggest that healthcare reform is a disaster, natural or otherwise. Instead, for all of us in healthcare, it signals radical movement in the ground on which the American healthcare system has stood for decades. Faced with these coming seismic shifts, I hear many people bemoan the future and question the ability of Inova to fulfill our mission of serving everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. Others question our ability to achieve our vision to be the best healthcare system in the world. Indeed, they are correct about one thing: Achieving our vision of world-class, equitable patient care will be impossible unless we change radically how we do our work.
Being in Haiti has taught me two things that Inova needs to remember. First, sometimes powerful external forces can force you to re-evaluate your entire approach. And second,
transformational change is almost always required to achieve transformational goals. Good people working hard together can accomplish a lot. Good people working hard together in
innovative, transformational ways can accomplish anything. I believe Haiti has a bright future if – and only if – Haitians and their supporters look at its problems through new, creative eyes to implement transformational solutions. In like manner, Inova will need to look at everything we do with fresh eyes to achieve our vision of excellence for our patients in the coming era of diminishing resources.
The Haitian father of little baby Jean can look to the future knowing that he has a brand-new life of opportunity ahead. Little baby Leslie, noted above, was actually born 21 years ago and will be graduating from college on May 1 with a degree in History. Don’t tell me that a dedicated, committed healthcare team, working with one determined little girl, can’t produce
transformational results. It worked for baby Leslie, it can work for a thousand baby Jeans, through your efforts in all of Haiti and, just as importantly, right here at Inova in Northern Virginia.
At Inova, we can look forward to a new chapter in our history – a chapter devoted to creative, transformational change. Through your support, I believe the same is true of Haiti.
God bless you,