This physician has battled epidemics, quakes, and poverty in Haiti. Now, she’s taking on COVID-19

Source: Science Magazine

Marie Marcelle Deschamps remembers the first patient with COVID-19 to visit a clinic she runs in Portau-Prince, Haiti. It was late March. His blood oxygen saturation, normally above 90%, was 35%. The 45-year-old man died within 1 hour. “Oh my God,” she recalls telling her colleagues. “It’s here.”

As the director of a major health care organization in Haiti, Deschamps was already stretched thin by the struggles of providing medical help in one of the poorest nations on Earth. Her clinic was soon seeing thousands of COVID-19 cases per week, and her days became consumed with treating patients, supervising the other doctors, and dispatching teams to provide care and counseling to people in Haiti’s urban slums and countryside.
Those who have met Deschamps (including this reporter) know her as amazingly warm, bright, and charming. Clinic staff, patients, and even strangers greet her fondly as she rushes past. The need for women to take an increasing role in Haiti’s health care has long been identified as a key to economic development, and after 4 decades of practicing medicine in her native country, Deschamps is seen by many as an icon and a role model. “She is inspiring,” says Sandra Lamarque, head of mission in Haiti for Doctors Without Borders.



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