FIU joins Project HOPE medical mission

By Mary Sudasassi

Nursing professor Dr. Randall Roark (center) and master’s students Vanessa Doorasamy, a nurse with Tenet Health Care in Miami, (left) and Dawn Horowitz, a nurse from Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale, are participating in a five-week medical mission throughout Southeast Asia.

A nursing professor and two master’s students from the Florida International University College of Nursing & Health Sciences (FIU CNHS) are chronicling their experiences via blog during a five-week “tour of duty” with the U.S. Navy and medical volunteers from Project HOPE.

Assistant professor Dr. Randall Roark and family nurse practitioner students Vanessa Doorasamy and Dawn Horowitz are providing medical care, health education and humanitarian assistance in Southeast Asia through the Project HOPE 2010 Pacific Fleet Tour. Project HOPE is a 50-year-old organization initially founded on the willingness of doctors, nurses and other medical volunteers to travel the globe on a floating hospital ship – the SS Hope – to help people in need everywhere. It eventually became a landbased organization with 35 land-based clini

cs in underdeveloped counties.

After the tsunami in late 2004, Project HOPE returned to the seas when it joined forces with the U.S. Navy to provide relief efforts via a naval floating hospital ship, the USNS Mercy. It has since expanded to a second ship, the USNS Iwo Jima, which serves Haiti and countries in Central and South America. The three-person FIU team is part of a rotating 12-member nursing operations team serving in the Pacific Partnership 2010 Mission to provide patient care in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. This is the firs

t collaboration between FIU and Project HOPE.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our faculty and students to step outside the comfort zones of their classrooms, their local communities, their expectations and perceptions of their profession to branch out and truly make a difference in the world,” said Dr. Sharon Pontious, interim dean of the college. “Dr. Roark, Dawn and Vanessa profoundly embody our university’s call for community engagement and volunteerism put forth by President Rosenberg’s energizing Worlds Ahead initiative. We thank vice president of engagement Divina Grossman for initiating this collaboration, and we look forward to more extensive ventures with Project HOPE in the future.”

Dr. Roark and his students boarded the USNS Mercy hospital ship in Singapore on July 6 to embark on the medical mission to various parts of Indonesia. Under the direction of Cdr. Carolyn McGee, director of Nursing and Chief Nurse aboard USNS Mercy, they will work 12-hour shifts each day as volunteer heal

thcare providers working side by side with U.S. Navy medical staff both in the ship’s hospital and in health clinics on land.

Their leg of the mission ends in early August, when they disembark in Darwin, Australia.

“We are well aware this is an extremely challenging outreach mission — this is going to be hardcore,” Dr. Roark said. “But we understand from past volunteers on these missions that, although the work is hard and emotionally exhausting, it is an extremely rewarding experience. I am sure this will be an amazing journey, professionally and personally, for each of us.”

Follow Dr. Roark and his students on this incredible journey at www.fiuprojecthope.

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