Dr. Vishtasb Broumand Living by his Hippocratic Oath in Haiti

Dr. Vishtasb Broumand Living by his Hippocratic Oath in Haiti

By Negin Mirmirani, PAAIA Editor

The group arrived in Port Au Prince, Haiti, as it was getting dark, the smell of decomposed and burning bodies filling the hot, humid air.  Dr. Vishtasb “Vishy” Broumand’s body ached as he led his medical team through the chaotic streets jammed with injured victims looking for loved ones. Still in a back brace from a recent car accident, Vishy and his team of volunteer doctors from Florida had crammed into the VW van of a Christian Dominican charity that morning packed with supplies and ready to begin a treacherous 5-hour drive on dirt roads looking for a University of Miami tent in Haiti.

Unable to locate the tent, they quickly set up shop inside the Central Police Station near the presidential palace in downtown Port Au Prince.  For two days, they practiced a kind of “back to basics” trench warfare medicine – fixing broken bones and amputating limbs.  Their operating table was a desk; they had to sterilize medical instruments the old-fashioned way; at night they slept on lawn chairs. Dr. Broumand’s specialty in Oral & Maxillofacial surgery was surely a bonus, but his basic training in surgery came in handy too: in the midst of treating traumatic injuries, Vishy was also called upon to deliver his first baby since medical school rounds in obstetrics and gynecology!

Growing up in Iran in the 1970 and 80’s, Dr. Broumand was no stranger to tumult. As a teen, he sometimes accompanied his father, Iran’s first nephrologist, to Evin Prison where he had been summoned to treat political prisoners with severe kidney injuries from beatings.  It was during these dark days that he learned an invaluable lesson from his father:  Medicine is not a profession, his father warned.  It’s a way of life.

In 1984, Vishy Broumand left for the United States, landing in Melbourne, Florida where he joined his aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Inspired by an uncle who had trained in Germany during WW II treating facial deformities, he first attended dental school at the University of Florida, and then, along with his sister, medical school at the University of Miami. Following a residency at and a fellowship at the University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital, Dr. Broumand began a successful practice in Daytona Beach with Florida Oral and Facial Surgical Associates.

Then came the devastating Haitian earthquake of January 12, 2010, a life-altering event for Dr. Broumand and one that would ultimately allow his father’s words to resonate in full force.

Vishy Broumand was sitting at home watching television, horrified along with the rest of the world at the images coming out of Port Au Prince.  Recognizing some of his colleagues busy providing medical assistance in a makeshift tent, he realized that he had no reason not to be there himself and immediately put his thoughts into action.  He spoke to his colleague at Florida Oral and Facial Surgical Associates and the two quickly figured out how to charter a private jet.  A mere three days later, together with six other physicians from Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach, the group made their way down to a hospital in the Dominican Republic near the Haitian border, where each had traveled before in connection with Operation Changing Lives, the non-profit arm of Dr. Broumand’s practice that funds charity cases both in the U.S. and abroad.

Back in Florida after five days in Haiti, Vishy Broumand welcomed a bottle of cold water and a hot shower with unprecedented zeal, but he was a changed man.  He had found his calling in mission work, and in the process, also managed to bring Haiti to Florida.

On the NASCAR-sponsored plane ride back to Florida from Haiti, Dr. Broumand happened to be wearing a T-shirt bearing the name of his Florida Oral and Facial Surgical Associates practice.  In a moment of serendipity, a Texan doctor on the flight jumped on the opportunity to show Dr. Broumand a photograph on his iphone of a 37-year old Haitian national, Ms. Lorette Pierre, with a four pound tumor on her face.  The doctor had been trying to get her to the University of Miami for two years to operate on her face but had difficulty getting her a hardship Visa.  Dr. Broumand knew he could help.  The two doctors exchanged contact information and promised to get back in touch when they returned to the U.S. 

Back in Daytona Beach, through Operation Changing Lives, Dr. Broumand and his colleagues did everything in their power to bring Lorette to the U.S. along with a translator to help with her native Creole.  Ms. Pierre’s tumor was growing unimpeded year after year from within her jawbone such that it would eventually suffocate and kill her.  A previous effort to remove the tumor in the Dominican Republic had nearly resulted in her bleeding to death. She weighed only 70 lbs. because she could hardly eat.

On March 22, 2010, Dr. Broumand and his team successfully removed Lorette’s tumor.  The first time she saw her new face, she cried.  Ms. Pierre eats now; her favorite food is pizza.  She lives a normal life. On June 21st she returned to Haiti to show the six children who had never seen their mother’s true face and the village that thought she was cursed, to take another look.

When asked what surprised him most about his experience in Haiti, Dr. Broumand did not provide a platitude about the violence or the despair that has seemingly plagued the small Caribbean country for years.  Instead, with the same enthusiasm in which he tells all of his stories, he shared his sense of wonder and surprise that so many people from all over the world with no ties to Haiti found a way to simply show up and offer any help they could.  He hopes people will continue to help.  He himself made a second trip to Haiti in April and is headed back in July.

A life-long car enthusiast with a love for fast rides, Vishy Broumand gets his thrills from what he calls “living by [his] Hippocratic oath”—a variation on his father’s theme that medicine is a way of life. 

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