Wright State mobilizes an emergency response to flood-stricken Mozambique

After catastrophic floods drowned thousands and left nearly half a million others homeless in Mozambique, Roger Pacholka, M.D. (SOM '85) got the call. Food, medical supplies, and volunteer doctors were needed urgently in the southeast African nation, one of the world's poorest and least prepared for natural disaster.

Then Dr. Pacholka made a call to Glenn Hamilton, M.D., chair of Wright State's Department of Emergency Medicine. Within 24 hours, half of Wright State's 36 emergency medicine residents had volunteered to go to Africa. Three different teams of Wright State doctors shuttled to Mozambique in April and May. The emergency response was a department-wide effort, according to Dr. Hamilton; residents who did not make the trip covered their colleagues' shifts at Dayton-area hospitals.

"We were on our way within a week," says Dr. Pacholka, a member of Wright State's voluntary faculty with more than a decade of medical missionary experience in southern Africa. "I know of no other residency program in the country that has mobilized an effort like that."

Working from a base in Chibuto, a city comparable in size to Dayton before flooding submerged half of it, the Wright State doctors boarded a helicopter every morning to fly to remote sites in the countryside. They set up makeshift clinics in churches or under shade trees in the open air. When they worked singly, each examined 60-150 patients a day. When they worked in three-doctor teams, they treated 300 a day while another 300 waited in line. At the end of the day, only the sickest patient could be flown out to the hospital in Chibuto.

"We treated very few people in the big picture," reflects resident John Henner, D.O., "but at least for those few people, I think we made a huge impact on their lives."

Beyond its humanitarian mission to Mozambique are lasting learning experiences, according to Dr. Pacholka. "You can't order lab tests or X-rays in conditions like that. You have to rely strictly on your own judgement, and that makes for a very good doctor."

Wright State's Mozambique teams included residents Brian Loveridge, M.D., John Henner, D.O., Frank Lee, D.O., Brian Delmonaco, M.D., Steve Gilmore, M.D., Jeff Love, M.D., Todd Davis, M.D., and Nabil Boutros, M.D.; and clinical faculty Roger Pacholka, M.D., and Mark A. Eilers, M.D.

Last edited on 04/09/2015.