McLaren Surgeon Volunteers on Medical Missions to Haiti

Author: Sarah Barber

“I always leave wishing I could do more, but I am so thankful for the time I do spend in Haiti and for all of my amazing colleagues who also donate their time to help,” said Dr. Melissa Richardson. 

Imagine needing emergency health care and being turned away due to an inability to pay. This happens every day to the people of Haiti and one McLaren surgeon was called to help.

Melissa Richardson, DO, surgeon at McLaren Greater Lansing Minimally Invasive Surgical Associates, and her husband Dan Richardson, DO, have been volunteering their medical expertise on mission trips to Haiti for the last seven years. It’s even become a family passion as the Richardson's 19-year-old twins have traveled to Haiti several times to help in all aspects of the mission.

"They love it there and always want to join us when we go,” said Dr. Melissa Richardson. Their son,  Jacob, is at Hope College planning a career as a Physician's Assistant, and their daughter, Grace, is currently an MSU nursing student.

“We had a mission group speak at our church about the need for medical experts to come provide care in Haiti,” said Dr. Richardson. “My husband and I both felt called to help join the mission. We visited Haiti annually with the mission for five years, and then almost three years ago we started our own nonprofit, World Health Partnerships, to help with health care in Haiti.”

Each year Dr. Richardson, her husband, and a team of 20–50 other health care professionals, including OBGYNs, nurses, nurse assistants, and ER physicians, and non-medical people they refer to as “good hearted souls” travel to Haiti to offer health care to Haitians who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. This team provides surgical care such as hernia repairs, thyroidectomies, hysterectomies, circumcisions, wound care, procedures for breast and colon cancer, and so much more.

“It’s not like in the states where everyone is provided with an evaluation and emergency care whether they have the ability to pay or not. In Haiti health care is very different. You pay for care up front, or you don’t get health care, even in emergencies,” said Dr. Melissa Richardson.

When the team is volunteering in the hospital, they are seeing patients through clinics, the Emergency Room or in the operating room where Dr. Melissa Richardson spends most of her time.  However, they are also in the community running clinics or just spending time with the people. 

“Haitian people are so humble, and they are so appreciative of everything we do. It is truly an amazing experience to be able to do something for someone that can improve their quality of life or even save their life. We are blessed to be in a position in which we are able to help and come alongside and just love these people,” Dr. Melissa Richardson said.

On top of normal donations that the group receives, McLaren Greater Lansing was able to donate a 20x20 foot container filled to the brim with supplies and equipment this year.

“Instead of throwing out or recycling equipment that will be replaced at the new hospital campus when it opens in March 2022, we are able to donate it to a great cause and improve health care for not only people in Lansing, Michigan, but also in Pignon, Haiti,” said Kirk Ray, President and CEO of McLaren Greater Lansing.

If you are interested in donating or learning more about World Health Partnerships and the great work it does, click here.

“I always leave wishing I could do more, but I am so thankful for the time I do spend in Haiti and for all of my amazing colleagues who also donate their time to help,” said Dr. Melissa Richardson.