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January 20, 2004

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OHSU STUDENT TAKES LEAVE OF ABSENCE TO HELP TSUNAMI VICTIMS

Certified paramedic and second-year medical student Carina Tremblay will spend the next three months in a Sri Lankan fishing village providing much-needed medical assistance, restoring clinic

PORTLAND, Ore. - Carina Tremblay, 28, is taking a three-month leave of absence from the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine to help tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. Tremblay, a certified paramedic in her second year of medical school, is part of a newly created grass roots contingent called Northwest Firefighters for Disaster Relief. The recently formed group includes six firefighters and paramedics from Missoula, Mont., and Spokane, Wash., as well as a water purification expert from Seattle, Wash. Tremblay currently is the only member from Oregon.

"This is a wonderful act of service and dedication from a very motivated student. Her previous experience as a paramedic will be invaluable as she assists these communities to rebuild the health care infrastructure that has been totally devastated at all levels - access, providers, facilities, systems. Her tsunami relief experience will make her a better physician when she returns to complete her studies at OHSU," said Mohamud Daya, M.D, associate professor of emergency medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine and mentor to Tremblay.

Northwest Firefighters for Disaster Relief was co-founded by Missoula, Mont., native Darrin Coldiron, who currently is a Spokane, Wash., firefighter and emergency medical technician, and Nick Muzik, a fellow Spokane firefighter and paramedic. Though they are primarily focused on tsunami relief, they also have been working on providing medical supplies for war-torn areas in Sudan. The small group has received donations of money, medical supplies, water filters, purification tablets and other needed items from businesses, organizations and community hospitals in Missoula and Spokane. Big Sky Brewing in Missoula paid for Coldiron's $2,300 plane ticket to Sri Lanka.

Tremblay, a friend of Coldiron and Missoula native, is flying to Sri Lanka this Saturday, Jan. 22. She takes with her supplies she and other OHSU medical students, members of REMEDY (Recovered Medical Equipment for the Developing World), have gathered from hospitals and clinics in the Portland-metropolitan area, including IV tubing, rubber gloves and syringes. Tremblay purchased the food and miscellaneous supplies she will need to sustain herself while there and is paying for her own air fare. While in Sri Lanka, Carina will be posting updates on the group's work on a Weblog at http://carinainsrilanka.blogspot.com.

The group's destination is the small fishing village of Komari in the Ampara District on the east coast of Sri Lanka. "This village lost a large percentage of its residents to the tsunami, and the remaining villagers have been relocated to a temporary refugee camp while the village is rebuilt," Tremblay said. Tremblay and her colleagues will coordinate with the Sri Lankan Red Cross and local health care personnel to provide medical assistance to tsunami victims and to restore the community clinic, which offered maternal/fetal and adult medical services prior to being destroyed by the tsunami. The group also has been cleaning and resupplying the local elementary school and community center. They are using part of the funds they have raised to hire displaced villagers to assist with the clean up and reconstruction of the community.

The OHSU School of Medicine quickly approved Tremblay's request for a leave of absence and fully support her in this important humanitarian endeavor.

"Carina has always been a self-starter and should make a big difference in the community she is going to help. We will miss her this year but appreciate the sacrifice she is making. She will be a great ambassador for OHSU," said Nicole DeIorio, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, and adviser to Tremblay's Emergency Medicine Interest Group.

Before entering the OHSU School of Medicine in 2003, Tremblay was a paramedic and paramedic education director for Polson Emergency Services Inc. in Polson, Mont., and a paramedic for Missoula Emergency Services Inc. Prior to that she served as an emergency department technician for Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt.

After completing her undergraduate studies at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., Tremblay received her certification in paramedic education from the New England Emergency Services Institute, Manchester, N.H. She is an active student member of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, and aims to further pursue her interest in emergency medicine upon receiving her medical degree.

Spokane Valley Firefighters Benevolent Association is accepting donations for the water purification system. Contributions may be made at any Sterling Savings Bank.

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