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Peralta's Journey to Success

Annie Grossinger

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It’s a bittersweet goodbye for Community Empowerment (CE) and the community of Peralta, Dominican Republic. Since 2003, CE, Rush Global Health and the community of Peralta has worked side-by-side to develop a sustainable and nationally-recognized medical clinic.  August marked CE and Rush’s final medical trip to Peralta as the clinic, Unidad de Atención Primaria Los Jobos, has reached its goal of self-sustainability.  

“In CE we understand that there is a very fine line that divides empowerment from assistance-based model that reproduces poverty,” said Alfredo Hernandez, Executive Director, Community Empowerment.  “After achieving a successful self-sustaining community health model, we feel it is a duty to begin a transition that allows the community leadership team of Peralta to grow and develop on its own, making use of the tools and experiences accumulated in more than a decade of work together.

Through the proceeds of purified water sales and registration with the Dominican Ministry of Health and Ministerio de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social, who are also providing medications, the clinic was able to hire a doctor, pharmacist, nurses and community health care workers. These positions were filled by local residents, many of whom had left Peralta due to a lack of employment opportunities and have now been able to return, work and contribute to their community.

CE will continue to provide support as needed through telemedicine; however, the last medical team saw patients side-by-side with the local staff. The surgical program will continue to work in Peralta and the regional hospital in Azua.

“Walking the journey with the Peralta leadership has been one of the most fulfilling personal and professional experiences of my life,” said Dr. Stephanie Crane, who initiated work in Peralta in 2002. “While we will miss our friends, colleagues and patients dearly, we know that the community is in great hands.

Here are some of the biggest accomplishments from CE’s partnership with Peralta:

  • Access to clean water for the entire community at an affordable price for the community and at no charge for the local schools

  • Successful business model which appropriates revenue from water purification business toward clinic overhead as well as permanent support from the Dominican Ministry of Health to sustain staff salaries and medications. This is the first public/private collaboration of its kind.

  • Employment for over 25 local residents

  • 1700 life-changing surgical procedures that otherwise would not be obtained

  • Leadership training and development of local residents

CE will maintain its support, assessment and will support specific initiatives such as health coverage and medicines for people living isolated in the mountains of Peralta and a telemedicine program that will support the clinic team.

We celebrate that after multiple attempts, and some failures, the perseverance and hard work of the volunteers and the community leadership have made this success possible! There is no foolproof recipe for the success in this kind of initiatives, However, the perseverance and credibility of the local leadership, added to a partnership based on respect, humility and mutual accountability, are clearly characteristic elements of sustainable growth.

In this next chapter, the staff and the community leadership of Peralta will be the ones who will train and accompany the community leadership of Villa Verde in their adventure to build a community where basic health ceases to be a luxury and becomes a basic right-accessible to all! Check back more updates and news!

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Cervical Cancer in Haiti

Annie Grossinger

 Dr. Fiquita St. Paul working in Jerusalem, Haiti.

Dr. Fiquita St. Paul working in Jerusalem, Haiti.

Cervical cancer in Haiti is the leading cause of cancer death in women. An estimated 1,500 women in Haiti die per year – a number that only reflects known cancer.  Many more suffer in silence or without knowledge. To date, Haitian women die at a rate that is 50 times more than the United States. When caught in early stages, cervical cancer is completely treatable.  Lack of medical infrastructure, limited resources and poor access results in many unnecessary deaths.

As part of our Women’s Health Initiative, Community Empowerment is working with Dr. Fiquita St, Paul to detect and treat cervical cancer.  Recently, CE funded a one-week training, where Dr. St. Paul learned colposcopy, direct visualization inspection with acetic acid (VIA) to detect cervical dysplasia (early cervical cancer), and treatment of cervical dysplasia with thermocoagulation.  Cervical visual inspection with acetic acid can detect early precancerous lesions, which can be treated the same day. We will be controlling Dr. St. Paul’s colposcopy interpretation with that of Gynecologists at Rush to ensure accuracy. This protocol will roll out in September.

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Continued Education in the Dominican Republic

Annie Grossinger

 Alfredo Hernandez, Executive Director of Community Empowerment, (second from left), Rush University’s Dr. Stephanie Crane (4th from left), and Dr. Richard Abrams (5th from left) attend a medical conference hosted by the Feltrex Foundation in partnership with Rush University and Community Empowerment in Santo Domingo, DR.

Alfredo Hernandez, Executive Director of Community Empowerment, (second from left), Rush University’s Dr. Stephanie Crane (4th from left), and Dr. Richard Abrams (5th from left) attend a medical conference hosted by the Feltrex Foundation in partnership with Rush University and Community Empowerment in Santo Domingo, DR.

In June, Community Empowerment (CE), Rush Hospital, and the Feltrex Foundation teamed up for another medical conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR).  It was the second in a series of conferences for post graduate medical education as part of an ongoing partnership. This time the focus was Cardiovascular Risks.

“While communicable diseases are well known scourges in much of the developing world, non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are leading causes of morbidity and mortality as well.  As such, we were very pleased to be able to speak about this relevant and often overlooked topic,” said Dr. Stephanie Crane of Rush University Medical Center and Community Empowerment, NFP.

The conference included a talk by Dr. Richard Abrams and Dr. Crane titled, “Hypertension – past, present and future”.  Approximately 200 medical personnel attended, including internists, cardiologists, endocrinologists and medical residents/ fellows.  Additionally, Dr. Crane also gave a talk on diagnosis and management of lipid disorders, designed specifically for residents. Seventy residents from multiple medical programs attended.

“We want to thank our partnership with the Feltrex Foundation, a platform has been created that allows us to implement our "train the trainers" model, sharing and exchanging knowledge with Dominican professionals, enriching and updating knowledge that directly impacts the Dominican health system,” said Alfredo Hernandez, Executive Director, Community Empowerment.

“The hospitality shown by the Feltrex Foundation leadership, as well as by the physicians who attended the conference was phenomenal,” said Dr. Crane.  “We learned much about the structure of their academic environment, and are looking forward to enhancing these partnerships with the development of residency exchange programs in the future.

Additionally, Dr. Crane and Dr. Abrams were invited to speak on “La Receta Medica” (The Medical Prescription) on Z101, the most popular medical radio show in the DR.

The Feltrex Foundation is the charitable arm of Feltrex, one of the most important pharmaceutical companies in the DR.  The next conference takes place November 5-6, 2018 and will focus on otolaryngology.

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Breaking News, Haiti 07/09/18

Annie Grossinger

 Photo courtesy of Steve Almasy and Keith Allen/CNN

Photo courtesy of Steve Almasy and Keith Allen/CNN

On behalf of the Community Empowerment community, I would like to express our sadness regarding the current situation unfolding in Haiti. As many of you know, the country is going through yet another round of devastation in the wake of a government hike of gasoline prices. The situation remains extremely unstable, with many Haitians confined to their homes due to widespread fires, looting, barricades and riots.  The political situation is unpredictable, with many indicators pointing toward destabilization for some time to come. 


To our Haitian friends, family, colleagues and patients, please know that Community Empowerment remains committed to supporting you through this difficult period.  Our hope is that the unrest comes to a calm with peaceful resolution and that you stay safe.


Stephanie Crane, MD

Save the Date!

Annie Grossinger

Art for Health is October 5, 2018! 


Street Art x Global Music

This year's Art for Health Benefit is merging our community roots with our global health ethos.  Local Chicago, Haitian and Dominican artists will share their works to visually connect our communities, including street art from all three locations.  Join us for special musical acts by Kreyol Roots, Microphone Misfitz and Doggybag, and celebrate Community Empowerment's work in the communities it serves.  
When: Friday, October 5 I 6 - 10 pm

Where: Prairie Productions, 1314 W. Randolph Street
Details: Tickets include (2) drinks and food; art is available for purchase

View more details or purchase tickets.

Progress in Peralta

Annie Grossinger

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CE is excited about the development of a few partnerships in the Dominican Republic (DR).  Recently, CE and Rush partnered with the Feltrex Foundation – the charitable arm of Feltrex, which is the largest pharmaceutical company in the DR – to provide Dominican doctors with conferences for post graduate medical education.  

The first conference, which focused on neurology, took place in March.  Rush’s Dr. Lauren Koffman and Dr. Starane Shepherd were among the speakers.  The second conference will focus on primary care and takes place in June. Dr. Stephanie Crane and Dr. Richard Abrams of Rush will be speaking.

On a local level, we’ve begun phasing out the primary medical care in Peralta as the community clinic has become sustainable.  The partnership with the Ministry of Health allowed for the hiring of a local physician, nurse, pharmacist, and community healthcare workers.  The physician, Dr. Amada, is originally from Peralta and was able to return to serve her community once the partnership was finalized. In fact, all the staff hired are local residents. The staff has been working with our primary care teams since October 2017.

As we begin to phase out the primary care, we have begun exploring new communities using a needs assessment process driven by Wendys and Alfredo.

The surgical teams continue to provide high yield surgery to patients without other realistic options for care.  In the last year, they’ve performed over 350 operations in multiple fields: ENT, Craniofacial Reconstruction, Orthopedics, Gynecology, Urology and GS.  Our community ties allow for targeted case selection and post-op follow-up. All cases performed in DR, in Taiwan Hospital and Sub-Centro de Salud in Peralta.

The electronic medical record (EMR) system, developed in partnership with Global Health Coalition (GHC), is up and running in Haiti after software improvements. CE & GHC are working together to engage the Dominican Minsitry of Health in a partnership to launch the EMR system in the Peralta clinic as a pilot to use in other government clinics in the DR.

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A New Clinic

Annie Grossinger

 A patient is shown her baby on a new ultrasound machine in the second clinic.

A patient is shown her baby on a new ultrasound machine in the second clinic.

As the Canaan/Jerusalem community in Haiti continues to grow, we are in the beginning stages of developing a second primary care clinic, named the Clinique Communautaire de Corail.  Currently, it’s located within Le Fleur’s Orphanage, and plans are underway for building a separate structure nearby. The first Jerusalem Clinic is now completely under the management of a local board.

Dr. Fiquita St. Paul is already seeing 15-20 patients a day, three days a week at the new clinic.  Recently, she was assisted by a CE team, which included Dr. Patricia Joseph, a local Haitian physician who was a longtime CE volunteer while she attended medical school.  The team saw over 100 patients a day.

To ensure our work continues to meet the highest yield needs, we are conducting community surveys, looking at demographics and biometrics of the catchment area.  The surveys will be eventually linked into the electronic medical record (EMR) system.

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A Community at Play

Annie Grossinger

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Since the 2010 earthquake, Madame LeFleur has run an orphanage in Jerusalem, Haiti – providing food, shelter and education for 40 - 50 children at a time.  Community Empowerment has provided primary care services since 2011. A couple of years ago, Madame LeFleur expressed a desire to give the children something on which to play.  Inspired by this idea, CE, led by Steve Wang and Taylor Massaro, raised the funds to build a playground.

In February 2018, the team of our volunteers joined a team of local volunteers to build a playground designed by structural engineer, Taylor Massaro.  Supplies were purchased from the US and Haiti. After much drilling, digging, priming and painting the playground was complete! Check it out below.

In addition to the playground, the medical volunteers created individual charts for all of the children (which they decorated), including growth and developmental assessments, and engaged in interactive health education sessions with the children aged 12-18 years old.

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