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With hurricane relief, YNHHS’ mission extends beyond Connecticut’s borders


Marietta Vazquez, MD, (in white shirt) joined representatives from YNHHS’ Materials Management and Pharmacy to collect and package a truckload of supplies that were flown to a pediatric hospital in hurricane-ravaged San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr. Vazquez spearheaded the donation effort – part of the health system’s commitment to help victims of recent hurricanes. After national publicity about the Puerto Rico relief effort, Dr. Vazquez received inquiries from other U.S. hospitals about how they could help the island.

Marietta Vazquez, MD, had a lot on her plate. In addition to working a full schedule in Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Primary Care Center, she had to study for her physician board re-certification exam.

But when she learned about the devastation from Hurricane Maria in her native Puerto Rico, Dr. Vazquez knew she had to act. She contacted YNHCH leaders and set into motion an effort that mobilized staff in numerous departments throughout Yale New Haven Health System, along with physicians and staff at Yale School of Medicine and the Connecticut chapter of an organization called Puerto Rico Rises.

Among those who helped were staff from Pharmacy, who pulled medications for donation, and Materials Management, who gathered other supplies and documented and packaged donations. Merrill Goodwin, a Materials Management truck driver/materials handler, spent all day and into an evening traveling to YNHHS delivery networks all over Connecticut to collect the supplies.

On Sept. 26, a truck loaded with 15,000 pounds of supplies and medication left the health system’s loading dock, bound for a New Jersey airport and, ultimately, the University Pediatric Hospital in San Juan.

“We are the first U.S. medical center to organize and provide medical relief for Puerto Rico,” Dr. Vazquez told a TV news crew that covered the story. “We want to get the word out because it’s very important for other people to hear about this. Puerto Rico needs help.”

Noting that many YNHHS employees have family and friends in Puerto Rico, Marna P. Borgstrom, YNHHS CEO, said the tragedy has hit particularly close to home. Even those without ties to the island and other areas hit by recent hurricanes have done what they can to help, she added.

YNHHS also recently donated $50,000 toward hurricane relief to Vizient Inc., a Texas-based healthcare company YNHHS works with. Vizient has contributed more than $1 million to help employees of healthcare organizations in southern Texas and Louisiana who were impacted by recent hurricanes.

“Service to our communities is an integral part of the health system’s mission,” Borgstrom said. “I am proud to be part of an organization whose staff and physicians live that mission, not only in the work they do every day, but in times of crisis and throughout the world.”

Within 24 hours of the shipment to Puerto Rico, Dr. Vazquez received an email from a pediatrician at the San Juan hospital who was “elated” that the supplies had arrived.

Carlos Lourenco, system director, logistics and materials, Materials Management, praised his employees and others throughout YNHHS for the successful effort, saying he wasn’t surprised by everyone’s willingness to go above and beyond.

“I know what we can accomplish when someone is in need.”