Dr. David Monahan might practice medicine in San Diego, but for years he has provided care for people around the world.
The Del Mar resident spent a week this past spring providing medical care to rural Haitian communities.
“This trip to Haiti was just amazing,” Monahan said. “Physically and mentally, it was tough. Things were so difficult. But it was amazing.”
It was a last-minute trip.
While volunteering at the St. James and St. Leo medical clinic in Solana Beach one day, Monahan learned about the opportunity to join the Community Health Initiative (CHI) on a trip to Haiti. Founded by two doctors in January 2012, CHI is a not-for-profit, health and human service organization that sends teams of medical and non-medical providers and volunteers to the same Haitian villages several times each year to provide continuous primary healthcare for people.
“I got the last spot,” Monahan said.
After first flying to Miami International Airport to meet the group, Monahan and the other volunteers traveled to Haiti during the third week of March.The team of 28 volunteers, which included five doctors, were transported each day via “tap-taps,” pickup trucks with wooden roofs and benches, to the village of Do Digue. In the middle of the week, the volunteers also visited Fondol, which included a two-hour hike up a mountain to get to the village.
The group expected to see about 1,200 patients in five days. Instead, they examined and treated 1,450 people. In just five days, Monahan saw 175 patients.
The group treated many patients for hypertension, which Monahan said impacts about 40 percent of the population. They also treated people for fevers, pneumonia and sore throats, as well as ringworm, scabies and other skin conditions.
In one case, Monahan recalled seeing a 15-year-old boy with a 102-degree fever. He had been suffering from a high fever and a headache for two weeks.
“His eyes were red,” Monahan remembered.
He soon discovered the boy had the Zika virus.
He treated the boy with the steroid prednisone on a Tuesday. By that Thursday, the teen was better.
“This was probably the worst experience I’ve ever had and the best,” Monahan remembered telling his wife, Sally, when he returned home. “It was so brutally hard. It was rapid fire for the whole week.”
Although days were long and the weather was hot and humid, Monahan has already signed up to volunteer again with CHI next March, and next time he’s taking his wife along on the adventure.
“You’re out of your comfort zone, you’re exhausted, and the next day you get up and do it all again,” said Monahan, who would swim in the ocean every evening to cool down. “But I liked it. It’s good for your soul and expanding your professional horizons.”
Monahan, who co-owns Amigo Medical Group and also practices medicine at Scripps Mercy Chula Vista and Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, has provided free medical care to people in the Brazilian Amazon since the late 1970s.
A Del Mar resident since 1973, Monahan has often volunteered with Care and Development Organization, a non-government, nonprofit organization in Nepal that provides medical care, training and other services. Since 2010, he and his wife have also held free medical camps in Nepal, in support of Chhahari, a nonprofit helping at-risk and orphaned children. The couple worked in Nepal in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and plan to return in 2017.
For more about CHI, visit chihaiti.org.