After spending a year in Haiti, Dr. Terry Dietrich learned some valuable skills he can apply with his New London patients.
Complex foot and ankle conditions are among some of the issues he addresses with patients here. “Instead of having to send them out, many of those cases I can take care of here,” said Dr. Dietrich, an orthopedic surgeon with ThedaCare Orthopedics Plus.
Dr. Dietrich went to Haiti in 2010 to lead a team of volunteer medical staff at Hospitale Adentiste d’Haiti (HAH). He worked toward making it a financially stable facility so it can continue providing excellent orthopedic care to millions of Haitians who live in poverty. He also helped develop teaching programs to train Haitians to take over the work of overseas volunteers.
Orthopedic surgeon Scott Nelson, MD, with support from Loma Linda University, developed the orthopedic service at HAH. Two days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, he went to Haiti and soon identified HAH as the best site to start treating earthquake victims. Millions of dollars of orthopedic tools and implants donated after the disaster found their way to HAH, and doctors are now able to routinely perform sophisticated orthopedic procedures. The hospital has become the country’s main orthopedic referral center, which Dr. Nelson asked Dr. Dietrich to head.
Dr. Dietrich said much of the work they did was on earthquake victims with fractures, dislocations and infections. However, he said, the bigger part of the work turned to those with pre-existing conditions, like severe deformities requiring major implants.
“The poor in Haiti, over 8 million people, had never had a hospital they could go to for orthopedic deformities,” he said, adding that HAH “agreed to give free care to the indigent.”
Dr. Dietrich worked with many teams of specialists. “We were very fortunate to work with all of these teams,” he said. “Many of them are very, very highly skilled people.”
“I personally was able to learn a lot from these teams that came down,” added Dr. Dietrich, noting he was able to assist with complex procedures.
Dr. Dietrich returned to Wisconsin in November 2011 and joined ThedaCare Orthopedics Plus’ New London office. He treats the entire range of orthopedic conditions in children to adults with special interest in joint and Oxford partial knee replacement, foot and ankle problems, and all types of deformities.
Dr. Dietrich enjoys being in a small town. “I like the people here,” he said. “This is a situation that suits my personality well.”
Dr. Dietrich still has a passion for those in Haiti and its people. “We found that in spite of the fact that they have very little in terms of material possessions, they have a lot in terms of relationships,” he said. “They are pretty happy people despite that they are very poor.”
Dr. Dietrich said he was extremely satisfied to help the Haitian people. “We found a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the work we did for the poor there,” he said. Dr. Dietrich knows the facility still needs support from teams in terms of manpower and donations. He is trying to raise funds with the sale of a coffee table book called Haiti Together We Move. The book has many pictures donated by professional photographers. It tells a compelling story of the tragedy of the earthquake and the humanitarian response.
“The people themselves are very, very good people, and the country has a lot of beauty and we really enjoyed the time that we were there,” said Dr. Dietrich.
Dr. Dietrich received his undergraduate degree at Union College in Lincoln, Neb., and earned his medical degree from Loma Linda University in California. He is certified through the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. In 2002, the Neufeld Society named him Orthopedic Surgeon of the Year.
He has 35 years of practice experience, and originally joined ThedaCare Orthopedics Plus in 2006.
In addition to his active role as a surgeon, Dr. Dietrich is also a professor of orthopedic surgery who teaches medical and pre-med students as well as residents. His fluent languages include English and Spanish.