American University of Antigua’s Dr. Bilal Khan, as well as the university's Dr. Pedro Torres, will lead a medical team into Vieques, Puerto Rico, to assist in the aid of victims of Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the area months ago.
The storm, with its 155 mph winds, destroyed parts of the island, severely crippling the infrastructure and leaving many in need of help.
But despite the hurricane having long since passed, some of the far islands off the Puerto Rican coast are still reeling, the university said in a news release.
Khan and Torres, former Stony Brook classmates, along with a medical team, are planning a medical camp in Vieques to provide what help they can, doing so from Feb. 9 through Feb. 11.
“Pedro and I are very excited to lead this effort which is really driven by the same elements that made us choose this profession – empathy and a sense of global responsibility to those in need,” Khan, a critical care and emergency physician and one of the two AUA graduates spearheading this effort, said in a statement.
“Since Vieques is an Island, it has been difficult to access, which is why they are still suffering,” Khan, a resident of New York, added.
The AUA doctor had worked as an EMT and then went on to AUA from 2007 to 2011. He completed his residency in internal medicine in New Jersey in pulmonary medicine at Norwalk Hospital and has just completed Critical Care Fellowship at Yale.
“Our mission on this trip is to serve the area of Vieques which is an island off the Eastern PR coast," Khan said. "This area, due to its remote location, had been hard to reach. Consequently, the people have seen little relief. We expect 2,000 families, and plan to serve approximately 8,000 people.”
The team, comprising medical and non-medical personnel, mostly AUA alumni, plans to charter a boat to take them along with the supplies to the island, Vieques, the university said.
The team has arranged with a local not-for profit organization, A la Mano Por Puerto Rico, in coordinating the logistics of the camp, it added.
Khan said the biggest obstacle in the trip is funding, which they are in the process of finalizing for supplies needed to embark on the trip.
Each team member who volunteers for the mission will be paying their own flight and food, while the organizers are trying to pay for medical supplies and the chartered boat, the university noted.
Khan, speaking of his relationship with Torres, who met early on in their studies and reconnected years later, said they are lucky that their paths crossed.
“We are fortunate to have met as young college freshman and to develop a bond that is allowing us to impact an area of the world in need. We hope this will be the first of many missions,” he said.