USF Health physicians fly to Bahamas to help provide medical care [video]

Four USF Health physicians boarded a small jet airplane Sept. 20 and headed to the Bahamas to provide medical care to those in shelters in Nassau.

Working with the Ministry of Health, the four doctors were cleared to spend the weekend triaging and treating adults and children who had to evaluate for Hurricane Dorian and sent to house in the shelters.

USF Health physicians traveling to Nassau included Seetha Lakshmi, MD, Andrew Myers, MD, Asa Oxner, MD, and Elimarys Perez-Colon, MD. All are on faculty in the Department of Internal Medicine in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.

Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon, Dr. Asa Oxner, and Dr. Seetha Lakshmi.

The trips to the Bahamas are the energy, time and effort of three groups: USF Health, ExecuJet, and Kforce. ExecuJet provided some of their space in a large hangar managed by Sheltair, as well as a volunteer pilot, and Kforce played several roles, including paying for the fuel for the planes.

Taking off shortly before the medical team flew out was a small single-engine cargo plane packed to capacity with more donations. The same plane has been taking multiple trips each day for the last week.

This Sept. 20 flight is the 21st mission to the Bahamas for this collective effort.

In a hangar, local media joined the bustle as the medical team and staff from ExecuJet and Kforce finished loading boxes.

In addition to the USF Health medical team, the jet was loaded with medications and medical supplies, which are part of the many donations the team has been collecting and sending to Rand Hospital in storm-torn Grand Bahama. Many of the donations came through Hope and Health, a non-profit group based in Tampa, and the money raised through recent campaigns helped purchase the medications and supplies being sent to the Bahamas.

The physicians shared what they expect to see in patients in Nassau, and why they are volunteering to help.

“I expect it’s going to be a lot of chronic diseases, like diabetes and asthma, and also rashes, wounds and some infectious complications,” Dr. Oxner said.

“We are also expecting pediatric patients and will make sure their nutrition is optimal because malnutrition is one of the things we usually see in disasters,” said Dr. Perez-Colon.

“Part of disasters is the breakdown of normalcy and to get back to a state of normalcy can take a lot of time and effort and a lot of encouragement,” Dr. Lakshmi said. “We definitely want to be part of the healing message and want to be there to support the process of getting back to near normalcy.”

The team is expected to return Monday, Sept. 23; additional trips are being planned for the coming weeks, as well.

Photos by Michelle Young.