Indy loves Haiti: Spotlight on local doc 

click to enlarge Dr. Steve Zentner, pictured here with a patient, regularly volunteers his expertise on medical missions to Haiti.
  • Dr. Steve Zentner, pictured here with a patient, regularly volunteers his expertise on medical missions to Haiti.

One of the medical doctors on those trips to Belle Riviere was Dr. Steve Zentner who works at St. Vincent Immediate Care Center in Fishers, IN. Dr. Zentner, accompanied by his wife, has been going to Haiti on large medical missions since 1996.

After years of many subsequent trips he began to see recurring patterns that troubled him: lack of constant care for those who needed it, lack of follow-up appointments and also not being around long enough lack of time to see everyone who needed care.

"We were coming in once a year," Amy King said. "Swooping in and who knows if they were taking their medicines correctly because there wasn't any follow up."

"I thought about how these people don't get any medical care outside of one week a year," Dr. Zentner said. "A lot of people just don't get medical care while we're there." Dr. Zentner thought there had to be a better way of providing care.

Dr. Zentner began communicating with doctors at a hospital in Fond Des Blancs, Haiti, where he would often send the seriously ill patients who came to Belle Riviere. He hoped to convince the Fond Des Blancs doctors to staff the clinic in Belle Riviere at regular intervals.

"They came back with how much money they wanted," Dr. Zeintner recalled. "It was beyond our budget. So, that pretty much died right there. Then, I found out that when medical students graduate in Haiti, they're required to do a one to two year residency. I called around about that and never heard anything back. So, that kind of ended."

Years passed and Dr. Zentner was still troubled by the same problems. Then, staffing changed at the Fond Des Blancs hospital and Dr. Zentner began a line of communication with Dr. Inobert Pierre, the medical director at the hospital.

"I decided to bring up the possibility of staffing the Belle Riviere clinic once more," Dr. Zentner wrote in an article on Provocate-Haiti's website. "This time I was amazed by the idea's reception. Dr. Pierre thought it was a great idea and was willing to accept whatever fee we thought was reasonable."

In the summer of 2010, the Belle Riviere clinic started to open weekly, staffed by doctors recruited by Dr. Pierre from Fond Des Blancs.

"We essentially put ourselves out of work," King said. "After 15 years of going to Belle Riviere, Haiti, there is a phenomenal story of turning things over to the Haitians who can totally hold a functioning medical clinic every week."

Dr. Zentner doesn't plan to return to Belle Riviere since there's no longer a need for him, but he stays in contact with Dr. Pierre because St. Thomas Aquinas still provides much of the clinic's operating costs.

The clinic's budget hovers around $10,000 annually — enough. With that sum, it is able to maintain a staff of doctors, a dentist and a stocked pharmacy.

"The community is like 8,000 people in the surrounding villages," King said, "and they just thought they were going to see a doctor once a year. To know that they can come in once a week for their care, everyone is healthier and benefits from it. It's providing jobs for the Haitian doctors and nurses."


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