A legacy of giving quality orthopaedic care to those most impacted by Haiti earthquake
LAS VEGAS - John F. Lovejoy Jr., MD, of Jacksonsville, Fla., is the recipient of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ 2015 Humanitarian Award for having distinguished himself through outstanding musculoskeletal-related humanitarian activities in the United States and abroad.
While serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, Dr. Lovejoy witnessed how a gesture of recycling medical equipment helped a small village in the Philippines and realized how that act could improve healthcare in developing countries. After completing his military service, he joined his father—also an orthopaedic surgeon and noted humanitarian—in private practice. Around Christmas time, father and son sent medical bills to patients who were struggling financially with a note that said “Merry Christmas, Paid in Full.”
Since then, Dr. Lovejoy has continuously given his time and resources to benefit the less fortunate. He made annual trips to the Caribbean island of Grenada to upgrade medical equipment, build an arthroscopic system and created an exchange program to bring Grenadian orthopaedists to the U.S. for training. The act of giving back gave Dr. Lovejoy a break from his own work, and time to appreciate what he had. “As my children grew up, I involved them and they, too, appreciated all they had when they saw how some struggled for existence.”
Dr. Lovejoy has been traveling to Haiti to provide medical care for more than 40 years. Even after retiring from regular practice, he increased his trips to the Caribbean, specifically Haiti, to increase continuity of care at the hospitals. He also mentored and trained medical team members and residents, including his son.
In 2006, Dr. Lovejoy agreed to lead the Crudem Foundation’s medical team—a foundation that supports Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti—to provide quality healthcare to the sick and poor in the Haitian community. The small, full-service hospital offers tertiary medical care serving a surrounding population of more than 250,000. A friend and mentor to Dr. Lovejoy inspired him to reuse available working equipment and share them with those who had little or none.
Five days after the January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, Dr. Lovejoy and his surgical team returned to Hôpital Sacré Coeur to provide medical relief efforts. They transformed the 73-bed hospital into a more than 600-bed facility similar to a mobile Army surgical hospital (MASH) unit. On an average trip, Dr. Lovejoy and team see approximately 50 to 100 patients in clinic and perform 20 to 30 surgeries in a week. After the earthquake, the surgical team—which included his son, Dr. John F. Lovejoy III, now a third generation orthopaedist—operated on more than 180 cases that first week and more than 150 cases with approximately 400-500 patients during a second trip two weeks later.
The earthquake made conditions difficult for the injured to immediately access medical care. Delayed treatment for victims meant an increased number of amputees in the country. Dr. Lovejoy was most affected by the amputations, especially those performed on children.
“There were 50,000 amputees [in Haiti] and 10,000 more after this earthquake. And, there are zero certified prosthetists in the country,” says Dr. Lovejoy.
Recognizing the mobility challenges these amputees would face, upon return to Jacksonville, Dr. Lovejoy designed, funded, and built a state of the art prosthetic lab and shipped it to the hospital. He recruited U.S. orthopaedic teams to teach and correct limb deformities, and trained local orthopaedists to be able to deliver a higher level of care. In order to make the program sustainable, Dr. Lovejoy also realized he had to train Haitians. Through Crudem, Dr. Lovejoy sponsored two Haitian students’ enrollment in a three-year college degree program at Don Bosco University in Prosthetics and Orthotics. The students worked in the prosthetic lab learning the trade, and graduated in February 2015. Says colleague Dr. William A. Sims, “John and teams [also] planned, designed and built a physical therapy building and program adjacent to the hospital.”
Amputees at the hospital were fitted with prostheses, and Haitians continue to train to become certified prosthetist orthotists. “To make things sustainable, we needed to train Haitians to treat Haitians,” says Dr. Lovejoy. We’ve given them the tools. We’ve given them the facility and the educational opportunities so they can learn the skill, and then treat their own people.”
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