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Before Robert Griffith was a medical student, he was a registered nurse in the emergency department at Pocono Medical Center (PMC). Robert chose nursing predominantly for the chance to serve others. Indeed, it was this compassion that prompted a career change after he took a heart-wrenching medical mission trip to Haiti led by PMC’s Gervais Charles, MD.

“Dr. Charles told me a trip to Haiti would truly define my career – it would be something I’d never forget,” Robert said.

After arriving in Port Au Prince, the mission team drove for six hours over rutted roads to reach their destination. Once there, the team treated a woman who had waited for hours to get into their makeshift “hospital.” “Her shoulder was broken, but it was left untreated for so long, it had already fused in an awkward way. We had run out of anesthesia. But she said, ‘Fix it! I don’t need any anesthesia.’”

Helping to re-break and set a bone on a fully conscious patient should have been the nadir of the trip. Instead, as Robert was walking “home” one evening, two people approached and pleaded with him to come to the hospital, there was an emergency — a 13-month-old baby in cardiac arrest. “I immediately went into ER mode and started calling for a monitor and a code cart. Then Dr. Charles put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘We are in Haiti. We don’t have any of those things.’ I came back from Haiti 100 percent positive I would become a doctor and devote some of my time to the underserved.”

Robert was delighted to find Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine’s mission lined up perfectly with his own. He was particularly drawn to Geisinger Commonwealth’s focus on educating physicians who will stay in northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) because, as a Stroudsburg native, he plans to return to NEPA after an emergency medicine residency.

“This medical school will bring people back,” he said. “We’ll see big changes in healthcare here because of this school. Its people really care about the area. Some people think they have to leave NEPA to get quality healthcare, Geisinger Commonwealth can change that.”
Robert Griffith