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York medical mission packs bags for Haiti relief

Margarita Cambest
  • A team from the York-based MIVO Foundation is packing their bags this week to travel to Haiti and help with post-storm relief efforts.
  • October’s trip was already scheduled before the hurricane hit, but the doctor says the group plans to keep its plans with a different focus.

Not even a decade after Haiti was hit with one large-scale natural disaster in the form of the 2010 earthquake, the still-recovering island nation was devastated again this month — this time by a Category 4 hurricane. Officials estimate that almost 500 are dead, but some estimates put the count closer to 900.

In York, one doctor and his team at the MIVO Foundation are packing their bags this week to travel to Haiti and help with post-storm relief efforts.

“I can intellectualize as giving back and participate in the reconstruction of the country, but honestly I feel a calling from God and I don’t question it,” said Dr. Gracia Etienne, an orthopedic surgeon who practices in York at OSS Health and Orthopaedic Services. “That is truly the most honest answer I could give you.”

MIVO is a group of local volunteers who take quarterly medical mission trips to the orthopedic clinic they opened in Etienne’s hometown of L’Estere, Haiti. The city is located between the island’s two largest cities, Cap-Haitien and the capital of Port-au-Prince, about 75 miles from the capital.

Etienne leaves Friday with six others for a week in Haiti, and he says the team already has surgeries scheduled.

The October trip was already scheduled before the hurricane hit, but the doctor says the group now plans a different focus.

“This coming trip we will be inundated with other types of medical care, so we’re going to have to be flexible enough to adopt and adjust to what we have to do,” he said.

In July, the team saw more than 650 patients and performed 20 surgeries during their one-week trip. This time, Etienne expects to see more patients who need general care.

“Although what made news mostly, as far as the hurricane is concerned, is the destruction of property and the loss of life, there will be some people that have gotten injured,” Etienne said. “All these things will be right within our expertise.”

Dr. Gracia Etienne,  an orthopaedic surgeon at OSS Health, will travel to Haiti to help with hurricane relief efforts, Friday, October 14, 2016. John A. Pavoncello

Angie Hartman, MIVO’s volunteer spokeswoman, said the team is still looking for donations of wound care supplies. Hospitals in Haiti were already overwhelmed and overcrowded before the hurricane hit.

“While the clinic didn't have too much damage, those people in the surrounding areas did,” she said. “We anticipate people coming for wound care as well as other orthopedic issues.”

Etienne, who still has family in Haiti, said his family there was physically unaffected by the storm, but that there are some villages still completely underwater.

The MIVO Foundation's clinic is in L'Estere, Haiti.

“There’s just no way you can prepare,” he said.

Benefit for local boy features endless beer tastings, silent auction

You can find out more about the MIVO Foundation at

An upcoming fundraiser to support the team’s January mission trip will be held at Chestnut Ridge Farm on Nov. 5. The event features caricatures, music, a silent auction, door prizes, food, drinks and casino games with a Roaring '20s theme. Tickets are $40 per person in advance or $50 at the door.