The adage “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime” rings true to Pamela Noel. A licensed infectious disease physician, practicing in Tampa, she often travels to Haiti to direct the efforts of Haiti’s Elite Medical Team. Noel founded HELMT and is the sole fiscal supporter of its outreach. The mission is personal: Noel’s family emigrated from Port au Prince to the United States when she was 10.
“Haiti lacks in both quality and quantity of medical care, and when I chose to go into medicine, I figured I could help,” she says.
During medical school at the University of Miami and her master’s degree studies in public health at the University of South Florida, she did—in the short term. It was “goodwill lite,” as she calls it, in those years, with brief sojourns as medical outreach. The effort never seemed enough. Noel knew that as soon as she returned to the United States, those same patients who were grateful to have any medical treatment at all would have difficulty finding quality care.
“Reality set in,” she says. “Once you become a doctor, you realize that treatment needs to be long-term. There’s a lot more involved in taking care of people than tossing a few medications at them.”
She reasoned she should, instead, simultaneously train medical providers in Haiti while nurturing a community of people who take care of each other. Giving Haitians a sense of pride and purpose means a lot, she says—more than sporadic influxes of doctors. It’s that “teach a man to fish” ideal, after all. She founded HELMT, as a nonprofit organization, in 2015 to do just that. A mobile clinic, HELMT specializes in primary care and homeopathic medicine and operates in northeast Haiti.
The clinic is a mainstay in the area and serves to solve many of the health care problems Haitians encounter. Prescriptions are dispensed immediately, making the process of diagnosis, and pharmacy, seamless. Teleophthalmology services on-hand diagnose cataracts and other eye maladies in real-time. HELMT recently launched a mobile dentistry unit as well.
Someday, Noel hopes to fund hospitals and clinics throughout the country. For now, she concentrates on HELMT in between creative funding efforts, which have led her to become a hybrid physician-inventor-author-entrepreneur. Here’s how she’s going about the journey.
ScopeShield: Patented Protection
How clean is that stethoscope? Noel’s invention of the ScopeShield hospital isolation gown aims to always answer that question one way: pristine. The ScopeShield solves a problem that exists in hospital isolation rooms she visits so frequently: the pathogen-ridden scope. When physicians visit a patient in isolation, they typically use the stethoscope kept in that room for examination. However, that stethoscope is sometimes not present. The physician then uses his or her own scope. Noel says more than 90% of physicians do not clean their stethoscopes after each use. This poses not only a risk to the physician but to the next patient they visit.
This risk is avoided with Noel’s patented ScopeShield gown, which features an elephantine-like trunk of protective material. Slip the stethoscope through, and, voila! Instant stethoscope safety. The shield is an accouterment that serves a real purpose, Noel says, and she’s hoping to spread the word to hospitals everywhere.
“It’s the same idea as why we wear gloves,” she says. “You’re doing the exact same thing with your stethoscope.”
Hospitals win in this scenario as well; if the medical team wears ScopeShield gowns, additional isolation stethoscopes no longer need be purchased. Gowns are a CDC requirement; why not purchase the version that offers the most protection? Additionally, though separate stethoscope covers do exist, Noel has yet to visit a hospital that uses them.
Noel reasons that the ScopeShield should become popular as soon as word spreads. Nothing like it exists in the medical marketplace. It solves a real challenge and is not cost-prohibitive – and, of course, the income generated will go toward supporting and expanding HELMT. ScopeShield also sells regular gowns, gloves and masks and is in talks with medical isolation gown suppliers regarding distribution possibilities.
ScopeShield gowns are available for purchase in bulk at scopeshieldinc.com to health organizations and fire departments only. Every gown sold represents a dual win of a cleaner stethoscope and more health care possibilities in Haiti.
AUTHOR & MEDICAL EXPERT
To supplement her Haiti efforts, Noel has released a book on Amazon, her first. Our Victory, God’s Glory is available for purchase. She also maintains Amaris Medical Experts and serves as an expert witness in cases that involve infectious diseases. Her family life is full with a young son and daughter and a clear life’s mission.
“I’m patient,” she says of achieving her vision of supporting brick and mortar medical facilities in Haiti.
“When it’s supposed to happen, it will.”
Learn more about HELMT at helmtcare.com. ♦