Dr. Andrew Furey had no intention of starting a medical mission team that would travel the world on a long-term basis when he started Team Broken Earth.
The St. John’s orthopedic surgeon, leader and founder of the volunteer task force of medical professionals who offer health care in areas of need, has been in Corner Brook this week talking about the organization and what it does.
In a presentation to the Rotary Club of Corner Brook at the Greenwood Inn and Suites on Thursday he said it was to be a one-off experience.
Started in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, one trip turned into another and then another, and one team expanded to become two, and then three and now the registered charitable organization has teams based in seven provinces. The group relies primarily on donations to be able to do the work it does.
After the presentation Furey said his motivation for keeping Team Broken Earth going is the patients.
“You see what they don’t have, and you see what care they would get if you weren’t there, which, in often cases, is none, and then you see what you can provide.”
The teams are multi-disciplinary and members often treat patients outside of their chosen discipline.
“It definitely pushes your skills,” said Furey.
For instance, he’s worked in obstetrics while on missions, something he only touched on in medical school, and he’s spent time helping a general surgeon, something that wouldn’t happen in regular day.
“It brings you back almost to medical school,” he said. “It feels like you recapture your passion for it.”
Another motivator for continuing is the sense of team that comes from it, said Furey.
He said it was an accident that team became a part of the organization’s name as in the beginning it was just an identifier for those going.
“But it’s truly a team.”
He said there are people there that you might know from work, but you don’t really know them.
“And then you have this shared experience, where people are pushed professionally, emotionally, and the only way you can get though that is if you lean on each other.”
The expansion has meant a continuum of care for the people they serve as one team can pick up where another leaves off.
As the years have passed, Furey said, the teams are seeing a difference in the service they provide in Haiti. On the first trip 80-90 per cent of patient visits were related to the earthquake and today 90 per cent are non-earthquake related.
Team Broken Earth has been working to break the education gap by teaching skills to local medical professionals in Haiti and by bringing some of them to Canada to learn.
The group has built a hospital in Port-au-Prince and sent an ambulance there.
And Team Broken Earth has been extending its reach into other countries — Bangladesh, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
“As long as there’s volunteers we’ll keep going where the need is.”