Palo Alto doctor assembles team to help Haiti
Schools rally with bake sales, shoe collections, a garage sale
He provided medical help following Hurricane Katrina and the wildfires in San Diego. Now, Palo Alto Medical Foundation physician Enoch Choi feels the call to Haiti.
Choi, a family physician in the foundation's Urgent Care Department, and nurse-practitioner Melinda Porter of Kaiser Permanente are in the midst of recruiting a French-speaking medical team of 10 to travel to Haiti from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21.
There, they will work in a clinic housed in a shipping container, which will be equipped to send digital diagnostic data to U.S.-based doctors, enabling them to assist with care.
It's a makeshift solution for makeshift times. Choi expects other medical volunteers will continue to staff the clinic after they leave.
So far they have four doctors and one nurse going on the trip.
Continuous Twitter and Facebook updates from people already in Haiti have made planning the trip much easier, Choi said.
"I've been following day by day how the security situation and everything else are changing there," he said.
Bake sales on nearly all Palo Alto school campuses have been held in support of the trip.
The trip's major sponsors are the Palo Alto-Menlo Park Parents Club, the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and Mountain View's Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, Choi's home church.
"Although I am an evangelical Christian, my volunteer work is not limited to church missions, and this Haitian mission will provide medical relief regardless of the patient's religious background.
"Prayer will be offered on an opt-in basis," he said.
"I have a specific feeling that God is calling me to serve in Haiti because I have this past experience, I see a great need and God is giving me an enormous amount of support," Choi said. "Doors have been opening to give us a welcoming organization that's been there for generations, that's an indigenous, independent church."
The Haitian sponsor of the clinic is the Haitian Foursquare Church, which Choi said is independent of, and larger than, its U.S. denominational counterpart.
Choi is working with other organizations, including Telehelp and Jordan International Aid, to equip the shipping container and provide security, a constant concern for relief workers.
"My parents think it's too risky, but my brothers are supporters," Choi said. "They've done disaster relief work, too.
"My wife is concerned, but I wouldn't go unless it was safe to go, and we'd be protected."
Duveneck Elementary School mother Sara Woodham-Johnsson has been monitoring school bake sales and explaining Choi's effort to other parents.
"Some individual schools sprung into action immediately after the earthquake. In general, the different schools didn't know what was happening outside of their school.
"My goal was to raise awareness and get a movement started in Palo Alto. I thought it would be a testament to how Palo Alto rises to an occasion to help out in a tragedy," Woodham-Johnsson said.
Choi said he will take a week's vacation for the trip and noted that the medical foundation's parent company, Sutter Health, already has a team of 15 surgeons and one orthopedist in Haiti "doing surgery day and night."
Choi, a foundation employee since 2001, also is known locally as a frequent blogger on a variety of topics.
On Twitter, where he has 2,635 followers, he describes himself as "bio dad, hubby, doctor, electronic health record geek, volunteer, blogger, wine geek, foodie, Christian and karaoke warbler."
Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.