Large-scale natural disasters have a way of helping us realize how small the world really is.
While longtime Akron Children’s donors Jim and Vanita Oelschlager already understood the desperate need for quality health care across the globe, the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti provided an open door for them to make a difference. With the help of Jeff Kempf, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Akron Children’s, the couple provided financial support to help established the Office of Pediatric Global Health, which Dr. Kempf oversaw until his retirement in 2019.
To help further support the office’s ongoing mission, Jim and Vanita Oelschlager recently made an additional gift of $1 million to support the ongoing global work of our hospital.
It is now managed by John Pope, MD, a critical care physician at Akron Children’s and the office’s director of medical education.
“We’ve been engaged with Akron Children’s and its service to children throughout the region, and in Haiti, for many years,” said Jim and Vanita. “Our gift to the global health program continues our commitment to children and the work Akron Children’s does throughout the world. Children are our now and our future.”
Since that first trip to Haiti in 2010, Akron Children’s has established a relationship with St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Port-au-Prince. The partnership provides bi-directional education opportunities for U.S. and Haitian medical residents, allowing them to take home what they learn while addressing issues of health equity, diversity and inclusivity, and social determinants of health in their neighborhoods.
“It enables our residents to see the world is a small place,” Dr. Kempf said. “We see that we are all united. Providing health care is a uniting force – like food or shelter.”
While our hospital’s work in Haiti has been paused due to political tensions, we continue to invest in the region through a similar program at the Oscar de la Renta Pediatric Center in the Dominican Republic. These efforts are being supported by the Department of Pediatrics, led by Chairman Norman Christopher, MD, holder of The Noah Miller Chair in Pediatric Medicine.
“We went to see what we could do and came back with a much broader understanding of how we as an organization can make a difference in the lives of kids and families in one of the most underserved, at-risk, devastated communities in the world,” said Dr. Christopher.
And thanks to the support of the Oelschlagers, the Office of Global Health continues to bring high-quality health care to some of the world’s neediest children.