Wearing his faded blue Superman hat, Dr. Denis Marier arrived in Jacmel nearly two weeks ago with plans to do something very unique.
In this city, which is necessarily overrun right now with doctors, nurses and other medical specialists, you might think that's a tall order. And it was, partially.
Toting a 100lb suitcase stuffed with donated supplies, Dr. Marier, who is based at the Canadian Clinic for Integrative Medicine Windsor, Ont., was the first and only naturopathic doctor to arrive here. As part of the Canadian charity team sent by Hearts Together For Haiti, his aim was to apply the homeopathic treatment philosophy to his post-quake relief work, something he tried for the first time in 2005, with Sri Lankan tsunami survivors.
The goal of homeopathic relief work, he explained to me outside a clinic near Jacmel the other day, is to use non-medicinal remedies to treat the mind so it can "give the body the information it needs to heal the physical."
He learned quickly that's easier said that done in a place where everyone is focused on their physical injuries.
"When they see a Western doctor they want to say, 'Here's this physical thing, give me medicine,' " Dr. Marier said. "Any time I've done this, people aren't going to just jump up and start talking about the grief or the depression."
Still, he began trying to see patients at the clinic in Cayes Jacmel one by one for assessments. Here's a description of the process from his blog:
I "set up shop" down in triage with my homeopathic remedies and a translator. Jo-Dee, an amazing nurse with our group, referred several patients who were complaining of depression and fear since the earthquake. Unfortunately, as I've experienced on previous missions, the local community is arriving at a free "medical clinic" expecting medications, not homeopathic remedies to help with post-traumatic stress from the original disaster. And, working with a young male translator inexperienced with asking for a differentiation between sadness, grief, and depression made things more difficult.
After he saw two patients the lineup just melted away, he told me, frustrated, towards the end of his final day, Before he left, he disposed of the leftover injectable Vitamin C he brought with him from Canada (it's a new-ish remedy, apparently, to stimulate tissue healing) because he was worried that, in his absence, it would be used improperly. When I left him, he was also contemplating disposing of a huge load of traumeel, a homeopathic anti-inflammatory.
Beneath the brim of that Superman hat, Dr. Marier looked defeated for the first time in days. But the feeling wasn't permanent - nor was it entirely unexpected.
Integrating medical relief work with homeopathy is an approach that's only in its infancy.
"I'm planning on publishing/lecturing more on this in order to help integrate it into future efforts," he told me in an email sent yesterday after arriving home in Windsor. He is leaving the door open, he said, for "future missions."
He's also planning to post a public photo gallery of his time here. Check out his website for updates at www.drdenismarier.com