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March 21, 2013

Trip to Haiti benefits patients, volunteers

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — An area doctor said he recently returned from a life-changing experience. Dr. Eric Dohner was part of a group from Walton that spent nine days in Haiti on a medical mission that treated hundreds of patients. 

Dohner, who has been a Delaware County resident for 19 years, and has practices in Walton, Oneonta and Norwich, said the experience has given him a better perspective on life, making him appreciate “everything I have, more.” 

He said it made him thankful for such things as running water, roads and restaurants.

Dohner practices general medicine and treats varicose veins and skin conditions, depending on the location.

The group, included his son John Dohner; Linda Frank, a registered nurse at Delaware Valley Hospital in Walton; trip organizer Barbara Horton; and Horton’s friend Mary Walker. 

They stayed in the city of Port au Prince and Chantel. Traveling to churches for clinics set up in advance, Dohner saw more than 800 patients, he said. 

This was possible because working through interpreters, most cases were not complex, he said. The trip was self-funded by the group, which supplied $3,000 in medical supplies and medications to the patients, Dohner said.

He said the idea took shape when he was talking to Horton, who is one of his patients and has made the trip a few times. When she brought the possibility up last year, “I thought it would be a good thing to do,” he said. It all came together a few weeks before they left for the nine day trip in mid-February, Dohner said.

This was the first time he had been to Haiti, he said, though he had been on a similar mission to Honduras on 1996. Horton is friends with a woman in Chantel, “Madame Laura,” who had lived in the United States for about 15 years and moved back about 10 years ago. She arranged the clinics.

Walker said she told Horton to let her know when she was going. As a retiree, “I had the time,” she said. 

She was in charge of entertaining the children with activities at the clinic and to make sure the clinics went smoothly.

“It was a worthwhile trip” that would benefit others, especially teens, who might benefit from seeing “how lucky we are” in comparison, she said.

Dohner said he is writing a book for medical professionals to help them learn from his experiences. When he is finished moving his practice in Oneonta to a new location in the city, he said he would like to return to Haiti.

He said he is taking donations of items for school-age girls for a shipping container that will be going to Chantel in April. Items requested are white blouses, knee-length skirts, underwear, flower girl or formal dresses, sandals, sneakers, toothpaste, deodorant and feminine hygiene products. Lightly used clothing items are acceptable. Items can be dropped off at his offices at 6 Franklin Road in Walton or 41-45 Dietz St. in Oneonta.