Susan Partovi MD, President
Born and raised in L.A., I was introduced to severe poverty in high school when I went to Mexico to build houses during Spring Break. I continued to go to Tijuana every Saturday for 5 years during college where I worked with a PA who taught me Poverty Medicine and Spanish. My experiences every Saturday in Tijuana built a foundation for working with the neediest folk and solidified my desire to go into Medicine. I went to Thomas Jefferson Medical School where I met Elaine Goldhammer. Keeping touch, we went our separate ways geographically. I trained at Harbor-UCLA (a county hospital) in Family Medicine and stayed on for 6 more years as faculty. There I developed an appreciation for social justice (and injustice) as I was surrounded by similar minded passionate doctors wanting to make a global difference. I also further molded my abilities and love for teaching. Since then, I have always been teaching medical students. I chose to work in community clinics where I began participating in Homeless Medicine. I attended National Conferences on Homeless Medicine, gave lectures, joined committees and for the last 12 years I have become known internationally as a leader in Homeless and Street Medicine. Ten years ago, I started working for Homeless Health Care L.A. working in their urgent care clinic of their needle exchange in skid row. Two years later, I became their Medical Director and I now run the urgent care clinic (by default becoming the Queen of Abscess Care). I recently started working for LA County for the Department of Health Services in their division called Housing for Health. There we have been granted the mission of providing supportive housing for the severely ill in LA County. I am the Medical Director of Field Services where I supervise the medical care of all those house, including the interim housing (recuperative care facilities) where acutely and chronically ill homeless folk are placed while waiting for permanent supportive housing. I am also the Associate Medical Director of the Star Clinic, our medical hub, where we see the homeless folk of Downtown L.A. and those recently housed.
In 2006, I started the Health Care Advocacy Group for the Medical Students at UCLA (David Geffen School of Medicine). I was also taking 4th Medical Students to Jamaica with Dr. Bruno Lewin as an International Medicine Rotation for several years during that time. Soon, I realized, I wanted to take 3rd year medical students to better impact their career decision making. The students I was working with in our Health Care Advocacy Group were so passionate about compassionate health care for the underserved, that I wanted to impact them at the height of their passion with the intention of further cultivating a realistic career in Poverty Medicine. And so we began creating what has now grown into a non-profit corporation. Four 3rd year students and I put together this rotation and went in December 2009. That experience in 2009 changed my life (detailed in my book, "This is Haiti"). I had worked in Mexico, I had been to South Africa, I had visited India, but nothing prepared me for the utter despair of sick, malnourished children. The Earthquake of January 2010 happened ten days after we had returned! I felt called to go back and so in 2 weeks I was whisked back to Port-Au-Prince where I met Gladys Thomas, the director of The United States for the Children of Haiti, then directing the chaos of post-earthquake at their hospital Hope Hospital. I stayed for 2 weeks and again was a changed woman. I was able to provide much needed primary care in the midst of the chaos and built a lasting relationship with my now "sisters" Gladys Thomas (who shares my birthday! 9-11) and Dr. Gousse. It's also when I met my (unofficially adopted) son, Joel, as he turned up to translate when we were seeing patients in a church. H.E.A.L. has been providing scholarship money for him ever since while he has been attending medical school in the Dominican Republic.The following trip, we only had three students, as many were afraid of the post earthquake potential dangers in Haiti. We ran the hospital for 2 weeks and we were taken to Mussote, 3 hours outside Port-au-Prince (used to be the site of the Reynolds Company...Reynolds Wrap...). Gladys has a 2nd home there and she runs an elementary school there. She wanted us to check on her kids. We loved it so much there, that the following year, we did a one day health fair at the church. The following year became a 2-day health fair. Last year we spent 4 days there. This year we will spend the entire trip attending to the inhabitants of the rural village, Mussotte. We have taken 38 students to Haiti in last 5 years. I live in Venice, California with my four amazing dogs (aka my children).
Elaine Goldhammer MD, co-President
Jasmine Reyes Student Leader 2016
Erica Tukiainen Student Leader 2016
Lisa Altieri, Student Director 2015
Lisa Altieri is a fourth year UCLA medical student and a student director of H.E.A.L. She plans to pursue a career in dermatology, with a focus in infectious diseases and tropical medicine. Lisa has worked for global health organizations since 2007, when she was first introduced to mobile outreach poverty medicine in Honduras. In medical school, she was a co-coordinator of the global health interest group. She went on her first trip to Haiti with H.E.A.L. in 2014 and used her growing medical knowledge to provide care to people who otherwise would not have access to it. Some of Lisa's most enjoyable moments when working with H.E.A.L. are laughing with patients and colleagues, learning about Haitian culture from the Haitians, and encouraging other students to find their niches in global health.
Aline Zorian MD Student Director 2015
Aline Zorian is a recent graduate of UCLA medical school and a student director of H.E.A.L. She plans to pursue a career in Internal Medicine with a focus on medical education and global health. Aline first became interested in international health as an undergraduate when she conducted public health research in Armenia and began to appreciate the interplay between culture, economics, and health. She first traveled to Haiti in March 2014 as a medical student volunteer with H.E.A.L. Both troubled to witness the astounding lack of access to care and grateful to play a small role in bridging this gap, she found her experience in Haiti to be eye-opening and decided to return as a student coordinator the following year. She looks forward to finally putting her French to use and to coordinating the efforts of H.E.A.L. to fit the changing needs of the local community.