Brian Pettitt-Schieber, Team Captain
Brian hails from Stone Mountain, GA where he was exposed to foreign languages and cultures at a young age at Atlanta International School. Brian’s road to a medical career included detours through theatre and film directing, non-profit marketing and communications, cooking in Atlanta restaurants, and a brief stint in carpentry, before returning home to Emory University for medical school. He is interested in the use of technology to implement programs of preventative medicine. As one of the leaders of the Emory Haiti Alliance, a student-led perioperative outreach organization, he is also involved in teaching and performing surgery in lower- and middle-income countries and hopes to continue that in his career.
Reem Dawoud, Team Member
Reem came into this world in the midst of Gulf War-torn Kuwait. Having had to uproot 10 times through 4 countries and 2 continents, global health is personal to Reem. Currently, she’s a third-year medical student at Emory University but she’ll be taking time away to work towards an MPH in global epidemiology. In her free time, she disconnects from the digital realm to ride her bike around Atlanta, tend to her plants, and chill with her two cats.
Sage Duddleston, Team Member
Sage was born and raised in North Georgia and spent his childhood building forts in the woods and playing soccer in the fields. He went to the Georgia Institute of Technology and received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering. While there, he worked in a prototyping machine shop and developed a passion for building things and helping people solve problems. He is now a third-year medical student at the Emory University School of Medicine and spends his days bouncing from one rotation to the next while trying to learn and help patients as best as he can. In his spare time, he enjoys rock climbing indoors and the outdoors, cooking whatever he can get his hands on, and making sourdough bread with his starter, Frodough.
Marie-Veronique Poirier, Team Member
Marie’s family is from New Brunswick, Canada, though she was born in Québec. Through odd connections she moved to West Virginia at the age of 4, and then to Kentucky at the age of 10. She stayed in the area to attend Centre College in Danville, KY, where she majored in Biology, minored in Spanish, and remained fluent though largely illiterate in French. After moving to Atlanta for medical school, her family moved to Maine – so “where are you from” has officially become her most dreaded ice-breaker question. Currently in her third year at Emory University School of Medicine, she enjoys yoga, painting, hiking and cooking in her spare time (which she hopes to have more of while completing her MPH next year).
Andrew Steehler, Team Member
Andrew was born and raised in an igloo in one of the snowiest cities in the United States: Erie, PA. As the youngest of six, Andrew quickly learned the meaning of his local “Flagship City’s” battle phrase “Don’t give up the ship.” Andrew attended undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh (Hail to Pitt) where he was introduced to his passion for travel and exploring foreign cultures. Through studying the socioeconomic struggles of Cyprus, to experiencing rural Northern India hiking 20,000 feet of elevation in the Himalayas, Andrew has gained exposure to global health outcomes of lower income countries. Andrew is super original and seeks to become the 4th Otolaryngologist in his family. Career goals include decreasing barriers to care for global communities and creating a sled dog team of Huskies. Currently, Andrew is a third year at Emory University School of Medicine enjoying a respite from the cold in Hotlanta.
Past, present, and future. Every disease has a natural history – the underlying genetic and environmental factors that cause it, the signs and symptoms that characterize it, the predictable course of the disease without careful treatment and follow-up. And every patient has a natural history – the socioeconomic factors that predisposed this patient to disease, the barriers to care that allow that disease to progress, the disability and loss of life that may occur as a result of inappropriate or incomplete care. As doctors, we must consider all of these factors when preparing our interventions, envisioning a future for our patients that they may have difficulty seeing for themselves.
This task is formidable enough when the patient and doctor are in the same community; when the patient and doctor live on different continents, it can appear insurmountable. Barriers of language, culture, and technology abound when we set out to make a difference abroad, and the brevity of the trips only intensifies these challenges. We drop in and out, a revolving door of highly-educated health professionals with local communities caught somewhere in between.
As members of the Emory Haiti Alliance, a student-led surgical outreach group that takes annual month-long trips to Pignon, Haiti, we must consider the detrimental consequences that our interventions can have without meticulous follow-up. A surgeon’s job, our faculty continually remind us, doesn’t end when the skin has been closed. We must ask ourselves: is it ethical to repair an inguinal hernia if the patient does not have the nutritional care necessary to recover from surgery, or reliable access to antibiotics in the case of surgical site infection?
We face these challenges head-on by cultivating close relationships with healthcare providers on the ground and fostering direct, transparent communication with them. The most important work of our trip is in the United States, months before the trip begins, as we establish the channels of communication and internal feedback that serve as the bedrock for our patient care. When we arrive, Haitian doctors and hospital administrators have already arranged for patients to be seen, and when we leave, they are already planning follow-up. “See you next year,” we say to our patients, and we are confident that they will remain in good hands in the interim.
We pair our clinical care with education in an effort to make a difference long after we are gone. Emory faculty hold daily lectures for local hospital staff, utilizing translators hired from the local community. We find ways to engage with the community outside the hospital as well, whether it’s sharing a meal at the dinner table or an afternoon pick-up match on the soccer field. “With rare exceptions,” Paul Farmer writes in his book, To Repair the World, “all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others – or, in a word, partnership.” We believe that global health outreach is one of the greatest tests of partnership in medicine, and we look forward to the challenge.