Congratulations to Daniel R. Lattanzi, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for being recognized as this month’s “Heroes in Medicine” recipient from Physician’s Weekly.
Dr. Lattanzi, a board certified OB-GYN, has been caring for women’s reproductive health for more than 30 years and has been making regular trips to underserved areas like Haiti and Guyana to educate future physicians and healthcare providers on childhood-related complications. Dr. Lattanzi is also involved with developing a new OB-GYN medical residency program at Georgetown, Guyana.
“Our mission in Haiti is to help develop a healthcare system that has a viable birthing center and clinic for underserved patients,” explains Dr. Lattanzi. “Our focus is on providing primary care, but we also dedicate our time and energy toward enhancing prenatal care, an extremely important healthcare issue for these people.”
According to Dr. Lattanzi, about 25,000 Haitians are seen each year in the healthcare system that he and his colleagues have created. “We provide patient education on a wide variety of healthcare topics, including proper breast-feeding,” he says. “We also offer screenings to at-risk patients. The community health staff is being trained on ways to improve care for these people. It’s clear we’re making a difference because many health problems are being caught much earlier than before.”
Strides in Guyana
Guyana is a small coastal nation of about 700,000 people that ranks as the third-poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many of the country’s people, including the wealthiest and poorest residents, have limited access to medical care due to poor infrastructure and a limited number of healthcare providers. For women experiencing childbirth complications in rural areas, the trek to the capital city of Georgetown—and to its free state-run hospital—can be especially difficult.
In addition to healthcare providers from Case Western Reserve and Vanderbilt University, Dr. Lattanzi and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have been volunteering to treat patients at Georgetown Public Hospital since 2013. For 1 week a year, he takes his work 2,500 miles away to Georgetown, Guyana. “The public hospital there is like many medical facilities in underdeveloped countries,” Dr. Lattanzi says. “They’re largely under-staffed and under-resourced to care for acute emergency cases. The week we go there is one that is often filled with medical crises, but also reward experiences for the successes we achieve.”
In developing nations, the number of women and babies who die unnecessarily each year in childbirth is high. As many as 5 million babies die each year in these counties, mostly due to infections and prematurity. “These are typically deaths among poor women, and their often voices don’t get heard,” says Dr. Lattanzi.
Dr. Lattanzi, along with his small team of residents in training and nurses, work with the national government in Guyana to select doctors who are practicing in the area to be retrained in medical care. They are taught ways to improve their skills and establish ways to increase healthcare availability to patients. “Our hope is that these clinicians will help train other practitioners in the country to improve the delivery of healthcare,” Dr. Lattanzi says.
Dr. Lattanzi is also involved with an OB/GYN medical residency program at Georgetown. The program, launched in 2012, is organized by Case Western Reserve University and aims to build a new generation of Guyanese physicians who are equipped to handle crisis maternal care. “These services are desperately needed because many women don’t have access to regular or quality healthcare in this part of the world,” says Dr. Lattanzi.
Before the residency program, there was no specialized OB/GYN training for the country’s physicians. Now, after 4 years of “apprenticeship,” the first class of Guyanese residents is set to graduate and will become full-fledged OB/GYNs. Dr. Lattanzi is hopeful the physicians will continue to work in their home country rather than pursue opportunities for better pay once they earn their new credentials.
A Worthwhile Effort
“If we can save even just one baby or one mother, these trips are worth it,” Dr. Lattanzi says. “I’m hoping we can recruit more physicians and medical residents to join us in our efforts and to help us continue to make a difference.”
For physicians, nurses, and residents who are interested in joining Dr. Lattanzi and colleagues in his efforts to improve medical care in underserved countries like Haiti and Guyana, you can email him directly at [email protected] or call him at 724-969-0380 or 412-429-4710. For more about University of Pittsburgh’s OB/GYN Department, go to http://obgyn.medicine.pitt.edu/.