Dr. Wislyn Avenard, Haiti, had been trying to secure a tourist visa to make a visit to Mercy Hospital Washington for some time.
The third time was a charm and the doctor was able to secure a five-year tourist visa.
Avenard visited the Washington hospital Aug. 19-23. With the five-year visa, Avenard plans to visit more in the future.
The visit helped Avenard see how another hospital runs and learn new practices to take back with him.
Avenard grew up in Haiti in an orphanage. He didn’t go to school until he was 10. Now he runs the CHIDA Medical Center in Haiti as its medical director.
He first had aspirations of becoming a pastor, but then realized the need for medical attention was very high.
“There are two ways to help people, not only soul, but body too,” said Avenard, who was sponsored through medical school. Then, he spent two years volunteering and taking a mobile clinic around Haiti.
“I have to do this. I have to give back,” he said. “I want to give back what the orphanage gave me.”
The medical center he runs has about 1,000 patients annually with more than 200 staff employed.
Dr. Gary DuMontier, a Mercy doctor, has worked with Avenard on several mission trips to Haiti through an organization called Brace for Impact 46. The organization was founded by former Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan.
Brace for Impact 46 has helped in Haiti by providing a children’s home, education, medical care and clean water.
The scope of the organization’s work is broad, but one of its partners, Mission:318, really focuses on providing medical attention. Mission:318 sends doctors to the medical center between two and four times a year.
Before embarking on the mission, the organization finds out what Avenard’s needs are at the center. Then it takes people who are going to be useful.
Estevenson Coleman, Brace for Impact 46 program manager, said it’s important to note that the people on the missions work alongside the Haitians.
“They want to make sure they’re going to be helpful while respecting the culture,” he said.
Coleman also was born in Haiti and spent some time in an orphanage. Eventually he was adopted from the orphanage and moved to St. Louis.
While he was a freshman in high school, Coleman was asked to speak at a Brace for Impact 46 event. Years later he applied for a position.
“It’s all about serving the people who need it most,” said Coleman.
These two organizations are why Avenard visited this area.
“Because of training, he was able to leave the staff and have everything running as it should be at CHIDA,” said Coleman.
Avenard shadowed several doctors during his visit and said he learned a lot.
“Everything is organized, that surprised me,” Avenard said of Mercy Hospital Washington. “The most important thing to me is to see the organization and see how to make things better and more efficient.”
Avenard also remarked about the people in Washington.
“There are very nice people here,” he said. “It’s good to be here.”
Avenard stayed with Coleman during his visit. While he was in town, Coleman made sure Avenard got a real St. Louis experience. He tried Imo’s Pizza, toasted ravioli, Lorusso’s Cucina, Ted Drewes and visited the St. Louis Zoo.
Avenard wasn’t able to visit the Gateway Arch this time, but with his five-year visa he’ll be able to visit again and Coleman says that’s on the list of things to do.
Avenard will be traveling back to Haiti Thursday, Aug. 29. He had to make a stop in Pittsburgh to meet with another organization, IDADEE, that helps a lot in Haiti.
While Avenard’s focus is on the medical community, he still finds time for ministry. When he arrives back in Haiti, he will immediately leave for a big mission trip.
“It’s not something I can give up on,” he said. “Even when it’s difficult.”