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Karen Schneider, M.D., and Pediatric Residents Practice “Disaster Medicine” in Haiti

January 19, 2010

Karen Schneider, M.D., with residents in Haiti after the earthquake

Four times a year, Hopkins Children's emergency medicine physician Karen Schneider takes a group of pediatric residents to developing countries as part of a tropical medicine elective in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s pediatric residency program.  She and six residents were on their way to the airport Jan. 12 for a regularly scheduled medical mission to Haiti when the 7.0 earthquake hit the beleaguered country. 


Health care isn’t optimal under normal conditions in Haiti, so the quake meant Schneider and her team were needed now more than any of the other dozen or so trips she has made there since 1999. They finally arrived early morning, Jan. 16 and got right to work at a makeshift hospital set up at the UN compound at the Port-au -Prince airport.

Dr. Schneider faces no shortage of patients, while medical supplies and equipment trickle in. She and her team are treating hundreds of patients with antibiotics and pain medications. No operating rooms are available to handle the crush injuries and necessary amputations, which were being done without anesthesia. After two nights with little sleep, Dr. Schneider said the elective’s name should be changed from tropical medicine to “disaster medicine.” Others describe the scene as “Civil War” medicine.

When the team of residents returned, they made a public plea for crutches and prosthetic limbs for the quake's victims.

In addition to being a pediatric emergency medicine physician, Schneider is a sister with the Sisters of Mercy, an international organization devoted to improving the lives of women and children in developing countries. She attended medical school at SUNY Brooklyn, completed a pediatric residency at Yale Children’s Hospital and finished her fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.