TIMUR DARRANI, M.D., AND SAMANTHA JOHNSTON, M.D., met during their residencies at UCLA. Dr. Durrani completed his family medicine training in 2007, and Dr. Johnson finished her residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in infectious diseases in 2008.
Three months after they were married, the two physicians found themselves worlds apart. Dr. Durrani, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, was deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months. While he was away, Dr. Johnston volunteered for five months with Doctors Without Borders in the West African country of Burkina Faso.
The 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti earlier this year offered an opportunity for them to volunteer together. They joined an International Medical Corps team and in May went for two weeks to the Petionville Clinic in Port-au-Prince. In addition to their clinical skills, they brought with them a large duffle bag filled with medical supplies donated by UCLA’s Recovering Medical Equipment for the Needs of Everyone Worldwide (RENEW), a student-run organization.
The trip was “both wonderful and extremely challenging,” says Dr. Johnston, who now is a pediatric-infectious-disease specialist at Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland (Calif.). “As could be expected after such a disaster, the public-health system was stressed, so we tried to make a small difference there.”
“By working side-by-side with the highly competent local Haitian healthcare personnel, we came to understand their logistic challenges and focused on improving them,” adds Dr. Durrani, who is a toxicology fellow at UC San Francisco. “More important, we came to appreciate the spirit of the Haitian people, which will carry them through this difficult time, to building a brighter future for their community and country.”