Michael Saenger, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of General Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine and internist at Grady Memorial Hospital, will soon put his medical acumen to use helping tsunami victims.
On Jan. 19, Dr. Saenger and a disaster response team of 14 physicians, nurses, counselors, structural engineers and other volunteers will travel to Sri Lanka in southern Asia to provide relief and aid to victims and survivors of the disaster-torn tsunamis. Dr. Saenger and the team will return to Atlanta on Feb. 2.
For Dr. Saenger, it was never a question of whether he would volunteer. It was only a matter of when. Upon hearing news of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated countries throughout southeast Asia last month, Dr. Saenger was prepared to leave and do his part to help.
Dr. Saenger has a long history of working in less-developed countries. Prior to coming to Emory in December, Dr. Saenger promoted community development in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, teaching disadvantaged people how to work together. He will serve as medical team leader while in Sri Lanka.
"We're trying to be true to Jesus' model of word and deed, in not just preaching, but trying to show love in very practical ways," Dr. Saenger says. "The medical team's focus is not just on cuts and bruises and subsequent problems, but also post-traumatic stress disorder, counseling and a caring presence."
Dr. Saenger and the team of volunteers will work through his religious denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America.
While in Sri Lanka, the medical team will be responsible for medical relief, setting up temporary clinics, caring for lacerations, complications resulting from flooding and poor sanitation and identifying those who are still struggling emotionally from such an incredible loss.
"I was beside myself when I heard about the tsunamis," Dr. Saenger says of the world's worst natural disaster that has killed more than 150,000 people. "Living overseas in some poor areas of the world and seeing other natural disasters in the past makes me realize how devastating this must be. When poor people must deal with any extra stress, and they're already just barely living on the margins of society, they are pushed over the edge. Now, whole communities have been wiped out, taking out their entire support network with the disaster. They've lost their home, means of income, seen family members die, and they are still struggling with missing family. Their whole lives are just flipped upside down."
Dr. Saenger says he simply wants to be a blessing to others. "As a team, we're glad to be able to use the talents given to us."