“An honor and a privilege”: Emory doctor serves patients in Haiti

David Markham, MD, MSc

David Markham, MD, MSc—an associate professor of medicine in the Emory University Division of Cardiologyhas worked at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Deschapelles, Haiti for the past 13 years, helping to research and treat patients affected by peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM).  He recently visited HAS to work on the PPCM project. Through this collaborative project with HAS, he has treated hundreds of patients with PPCM, worked on the wards and in the clinic, and presented a number of lectures to the hospital’s faculty and staff.

PPCM is a disorder in which a pregnant woman’s heart becomes weakened and enlarged. This prevents the heart from pumping well. The cause of the disorder is unknown, but it typically begins toward the end of pregnancy or after delivery. The disease affects women around the world, and it can lead to heart failure and infant deaths.

X-ray scan of a Haitian PPCM patient's enlarged heart

X-ray scan of a Haitian PPCM patient’s enlarged heart

While PPCM is relatively rare, Haitian women have the highest incidence in the world—occurring in approximately one out of every 200 women. For Haiti, a developing country that places strong cultural emphasis on maternal/family ties, the impact of this disease is compounded by the fact that families can be left without their mothers, wives, sisters, and children.

 

Countryside in the Artibonite River Valley, where Haiti’s cholera epidemic started after the 2010 earthquake

 

This problem with PPCM was recognized many years ago at Schweitzer. An important hospital for the Haitian people, Schweitzer has had a particularly profound impact after the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake. The hospital has made research and treatment of PPCM a top priority, and they emphasize the significance of early detection to help prevent maternal and fetal mortality and morbidity.

When asked about his experience abroad, Dr. Markham said, “It has been a real honor and a privilege to work at an amazing place like Schweitzer. Bolstering women’s health in impoverished and medically underserved places like the Artibonite River Valley not only helps women, but also the whole community.” There is ongoing research at HAS on PPCM, and Dr. Markham hopes that the future will bring more knowledge about the disease and its causes.

More about David Markham, MD, MSc

Dr. Markham is currently the medical director of the Emory Heart Failure Clinic at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. He is an experienced heart failure and transplant cardiologist and has performed groundbreaking work in the area of assist device physiology. He completed an internship and residency at the University of Virginia, a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical and molecular cardiology at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and a fellowship in cardiology with advanced training in heart failure and cardiac transplantation at Duke University Medical Center.

Before his return to Atlanta, Markham was medical director of the Heart Failure Clinic at Parkland Memorial Hospital and associate director of heart failure, assist devices and cardiac transplantation at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

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About the Author

Emory Department of Medicine
Emory Department of Medicine

The Emory University Department of Medicine, within the Emory University School of Medicine, is steeped in a rich tradition of excellence. Through the work of its nine divisions and numerous centers and institutes, the department has pioneered discoveries in medicine, education, scientific and clinical investigation, and clinical care. Emory University School of Medicine’s medical school, residency, transitional-year, and fellowship programs offer students the latest knowledge in treatment practices, scientific theories, research, and patient care.

The Emory University Department of Medicine is a component of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University, which includes the Emory schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare.

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