HACKENSACK –Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center rolled out a mobile residency rotation on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, giving a doctor-in-training the opportunity to help a community that is still recovering from damaged caused by severe hurricanes nearly two years ago.

After the only hospital on the island, Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital, was heavily damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria, doctors in St. Croix and HUMC collaborated on the program, which sent a resident, along with one of emergency medicine mobile units to the Caribbean island.

The deployment, HUMC CEO Robert Garrett said, represents the latest effort by the hospital to provide “emergency care beyond the walls of our medical centers, where and when it is needed most.”

Sign Up for Hackensack Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“The emergency medicine resident rotation takes this important initiative to a new level,” Garrett said.

For the rotation, HUMC sent Joan Manglicmot, a third year emergency medicine resident, to work out of the mobile unit.

Developed by HUMC with federal grant funding, the state-of-the-art modular mobile hospitals include a formal operating suite and pre/post-operative unit, which also functions as an emergency department/intensive care unit. 

The units can function independently of local infrastructure and can expand to create an environment similar to a permanent medical facility.

Since the hospital acquired its units, they’ve been used several times to provide disaster relief, such as during Superstorm Sandy, or to supplement medical care at large-scale events, like the 2014 Super Bowl.

Following the back-to-back hurricanes, St. Croix, an 84-square mile mass in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been undergoing a reconstruction. 

The idea to bring the mobile units, along with a resident, to the island was borne out of conversations between Dr. Beth Joseph, director of emergency medicine at the St. Croix hospital and Dr. Herman Morchel, an HUMC physician who serves as the medical and engineering director of the mobile medical units.

The request to send the mobile hospital was made through a multi-state and territory emergency aid pact, which required authorization from Congress and legislative approvals in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced in March 2018. The units are owned and operated by AMERCO, a non-profit consortium of New Jersey hospitals, in collaboration with the Department of Health’s Mobile Satellite Emergency Department. 

Manglicmot said her rotation was a great learning experience. 

“I found that practicing medicine with fewer resources requires health care providers to be particularly flexible in providing the best care for patients,” she said.

Manglicmot, who served at her own expense, received support from local business owners on the island who demonstrated their appreciation for her help at the hospital where she provided emergency medical care. 

“I was grateful for the support of the people of St. Croix who helped to make this possible and made me feel so welcome,” said Manglicmot.

Dr. Douglas Finefrock, vice chair of the Emergency and Trauma Center at HUMC, said, “This new resident initiative supports our mission to deliver educational and medical resources to communities with disparate health care. Through the creation and development of this model, Dr. Morchel is helping to ensure that we achieve our shared purpose to transform health care and serve as leaders of positive change.” 

Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, co-chief academic officer and senior vice president of medical school and development and integration at Hackensack Meridian Health, said, “Global outreach offers an opportunity to be of service as a health care advocate. The Emergency Medicine resident rotation also provides new perspectives on patient care and heightens the overall resident experience.”

 HUMC aims to expand its resident rotation program in the future. Residents are currently afforded one elective month in their final year of training and many have already expressed interest in following in Manglicmot’s footsteps.

Asked to offer tips for other residents, Manglicmot said, “Be there to learn and be open to understanding new cultures, which is the best way to connect with patients. Always begin by listening -- it’s an important way to demonstrate respect, wherever you practice.”