USF doctors return from Bahamas after assisting hospitals

A medical team of doctors and nurses from the University of South Florida returned from the Bahamas after spending the weekend helping those in need.

It's been three weeks since Hurricane Dorian devastated the northern islands. On Friday, USF delivered several hundred pounds of needed supplies for the island nation. The team from USF's College of Medicine also flew in to work at Nassau clinics and hospitals. 

"We were really surprised by the amount of resiliency that we saw. We had all these evacuee patients and hearing their stories, but then they had smiles on their faces, and they had plans for their futures," explained Dr. Asa Oxner during a visit on Good Day Tampa Bay.

It's not the first time the USF team traveled to areas in the world in need of help, but Dr. Oxner said they were all impressed with how organized the government's response was following the devastation from Hurricane Dorian. 

"We were also really surprised at how organized the Ministry of Health is. We've done responses in other countries, in the United States, in Africa and in India -- the Ministry of Health in the Bahamas had it much more organized," she explained.

Dr. Seetha Laksmi told FOX 13 that being a Floridian, and experiencing hurricanes firsthand, helped them empathize with the residents in the Caribbean country. 

"We feel the vulnerability of what people in the Bahamas are going through. People watching the destruction feel -- and we were lucky enough to go with all the partners we have," she explained. "The repetition of all the stories were really heartbreaking. We did a lot of help with the children that got displaced. We're trying to get them to school. The parents who brought them in just teared up."

Image 1 of 2

They are still in need of help, explained Dr. Elimarys Perez-Colon, and that includes monetary donations. USF is collecting funds that would be "put to good use,' she explained. 

LINK: You can donate to the fund, USF Relief for the Bahamas"USF Relief for the Bahamas" through the school's website

However, they also need mental health support, Dr. Perez-Colon said.

"The trauma we witnessed there were very significant. These kids that are there are incredible. They are very resilient. They were smiling," she recalled. "A lot of them we had a little bit of trouble getting close to them. Some had trouble having eye contact -- and were having nightmares."

She said another factor the Bahamas needs is the main thing that drivers their economy: tourism.

"There are over 700 islands and not everything is devastated," Dr. Perez-Colon said. "We stayed in Nassau which is up and running. They are saying the tourism is getting lower and that is the main source for their economy, so they need you guys to go there."

The university partnered with Execu-Jet and K.FORCE to coordinate the use of private planes to deliver the manpower and supplies to the teams they've connected with in Nassau. The team arrived in Nassau Friday and returned Sunday night. They are planning to return.