About 150 runners rose before the sun did Saturday for the fourth annual Project Haiti 5-kilometer race at the University of Florida in an effort to raise money for a medical mission trip to Haiti.
The student-run Project Haiti mission trip gives UF College of Medicine students a global perspective they can apply to local health care settings in Florida, said Daniel Turner, 23, a co-leader of Project Haiti 2014 and a second-year UF medical student.
Turner said that even though Haiti does not have the most advanced medical technology, the team still goes with the intention of caring for fellow human beings.
“There’s something intrinsic about that,” Turner said. “I think it teaches us to do it better in America, as well.”
The Project Haiti mission team, which will consist of about 35 members by spring 2014, aims to raise $40,000 before the March 1 departure date. The race was one of the team’s larger fundraisers of the year, Turner said. He estimated it raised about $4,000.
The 5K attracted runners from North Central Florida, Orlando and Jacksonville areas.
Dr. Timothy Flynn, the senior associate dean of clinical affairs at the UF College of Medicine and chief medical officer of UF Shands, ran in the 5K with his wife, Dr. Marian Limacher, the senior associate dean for faculty affairs and professional development at the UF College of Medicine.
“We’re here supporting all six colleges, Shands and our students here learning international health,” Flynn said.
Funds raised will help purchase medical supplies and pharmaceutical drugs for the eight-day trip. Supplies are ordered with the help of attending pharmacist Jose Puentes, as well as a student pharmacy team from UF’s College of Pharmacy.
Samantha Baer, 27, the project’s other co-leader, said the pharmacy team works closely with Project Haiti members to determine what medicine will be needed based on the previous year’s records. The 2014 trip will mark the 17th year that UF students completed Project Haiti.
“We’re very fortunate that we use a team of pharmacists from UF to help get our medical supplies,” said Baer, who is also a second-year Project Haiti team member and UF medical student. “That’s something that, as medical students, we don’t necessarily have a lot of expertise in.”
Turner said he hopes to bring back a passion for providing quality healthcare to those in need, from the Haitian villages to Gainesville.
“I think there’s a lot to be learned from a Project Haiti mission trip,” Turner said. “As we, as future doctors, look towards our careers, I think that part of it is just seeing our fellow human beings who are in a different situation and setting, realizing that the kind of poverty that they’re experiencing just isn’t okay.”