Thomas Miller, MD
Thomas Miller, MD
Obstetrics & Gynecology · Montgomery, AL

Project Dominicana

February 18th
La Romana, Dominican Republic

Project Description

Participate in medical clinics in remote, rural bateys and municipal prisons in the Dominican Republic; populations served include Haitian sugar cane workers and their families, as well as inmates in the penal system. Medical care for both groups is sub optimal and lacking even the basics. This is an ongoing, annual medical mission trip which has not been conducted since 2019 due to COVID. Individuals with significant medical conditions will be referred to a local nonprofit hospital which partners with the mission team. Ultimately, the health status of these underserved populations will be improved, enabling them to focus on other pressing needs such as housing, nutrition and work.

Population Served

Haitians are recruited to work in the sugar cane fields at very low wages and limited options for integrating with Dominican society due to cultural and political issues. Work is seasonal and housing is in company owned bateys which are rudimentary, nonhygienic and hardscrabble. Preventive and primary care is patchy. In similar fashion, the prison population is severely overcrowded and medical care is largely on an emergency basis. These two populations are the target groups for medical clinics.

Expected Impact

Improved health among the populations served; in addition, since this is an annual project, our work involves longstanding partnerships with local providers from the Good Samaritan Hospital and local civic clubs, such as Rotary. These relationships foster smoother integration of our medical teams with local partners, thereby enabling us to provide more effective care to the populations served.

Trip Photos & Recap

Project Dominicana, now in its sixteenth year, was based out of La Romana, Dominican Republic. This year’s trip marked a return after a three year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. The main focus is to stand up a series of medical clinics in area bateys, jails and prisons. The bateys are very basic housing settlements for Haitians who do manual labor cutting sugar cane in rural Dominican Republic. Many of these workers have families, including infants and children. The living conditions are extremely challenging with very limited resources for nutritious food, safe drinking water, preventive and acute health care and education. Likewise, conditions in the jails and prisons are very stark, with extreme overcrowding and an overall lack of resources. Over the years, strong relationships have been built with local providers, community servants and a nonprofit hospital; these entities have representatives and participants in all our activities, fostering an invaluable connection between us and those we serve.

Team members staged multiple clinics throughout the week providing basic medical care to residents of the bateys (men, women and children) and to incarcerated men and women. Several patients had chronic medical illnesses but had run out of their medications and we were able to provide these. It was a bit challenging to engage non-English speaking patients through an interpreter, however, our team leader, Dr. Bob Chagrasulis, has become fluent in Haitian Creole over the years, which was a real asset for difficult encounters. Many of the interactions throughout the week were very gratifying as so many were so grateful for even simple assistance.

Another beneficial aspect of the trip was interaction with the director of a local nonprofit that addresses a myriad of challenges such as sex trafficking, perinatal HIV, family planning and general primary care issues. Likewise, we heard from the director of a nonprofit that provides prosthetics to amputees who would not otherwise have access to these lifechanging devices. These two presenters, long term friends of the project, enabled us to further appreciate the local health landscape, with a focus on specific at risk populations.

The expected impact overall of Project Dominicana is incrementally better health for the patients. Given that the needs are so great, our efforts to improve the situation may seem small, but when considered at the individual one on one level, we believe our impact is meaningful. We appreciate the Doximity Foundation’s support of this and so many other similar endeavors to make a global impact on health.