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Life saving surgery in Port-au-Prince with Team Broken Earth and the DrillCover PRO


Michael Cancilla had the opportunity to represent Arbutus Medical at Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with Team Broken Earth (TBE) as a part of their global surgery outreach. Team Broken Earth sends several volunteer medical teams from different Canadian cities to partner hospitals situated in Haiti, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, and Guatemala to help build surgical capacity and expand access to safe surgery. The technical assistance of Arbutus Medical was sought since TBE would be using the DrillCover PRO and the SawCover on this trip.

TBE has a longstanding relationship with Bernard Mevs, as they had periodically visited the site since the earthquake of 2010. At the hospital, Cancilla had been tasked with implementing Arbutus Medical’s tools. However, he also wanted to support the staff of Bernard Mevs to the best of his capacity by leveraging his engineering skills wherever required.

Dr. Andrew Furey, team lead for TBE, is familiar with Arbutus Medical’s tools as he had used them during several trips in the past, noting that the tools are compact and efficient. He also remarked that one power tool can be used for multiple surgeries each day, by merely switching out pre-sterilized covers and hardware. Essentially, Arbutus Medical’s tools empowered the surgeon at a fraction of the cost. “Your tools are going to change the game at this hospital,” Dr. Furey told Cancilla.

Upon arrival, Cancilla began training nurses and surgeons from both TBE and Bernard Mevs, specifically to assist them with the DrillCover PRO tools, and preparing the tools for future surgical cases. The staff were very receptive to learning about the DrillCover technology.

Learning that Cancilla was also an engineer, he was directed to work on a key piece of the hospital’s machinery- the C-Arm imager- which during that time, was malfunctioning. In just one day, the hospital’s technician (Johnny L.) and Cancilla had rebuilt the x-ray generator in the C-Arm, while they were consistently supported by the company’s engineers in Arizona via Facetime. Mike states that it was an amazing experience to witness the C-Arm being put into immediate use, as it delivered clear images for the benefit of surgeons and patients.

Michael Cancilla and Johnny L. at the final stages of rebuilding the hospital’s C-Arm imaging machine (Photo courtesy of Team Broken Earth)


Bernard Mevs Hospital was under immense pressure during Cancilla’s visit as there was unrest as the citizens demanded the government to step down, and that meant an increase in the number of patients requiring critical care. The unrest disrupted the staff’s ability to reach the hospital on certain days and hence, the hospital had to make do with whatever resources were available. Irrespective of staffing, the hospital kept its doors open to new patients throughout our time there.


The TBE surgical team, with support from the Bernard Mevs hospital staff, performed 3-5 surgeries every day during the course of the seven-day trip. Arbutus Medical power tools were used in every surgery performed, among which many were trauma cases from motor vehicle accidents or gunshots. Cancilla took up various roles, sometimes a circulating nurse, sometimes a radiation tech, and sometimes, simply a runner. It was remarkable to have such a positive impact.

Key Takeaway

Medical outreach or ‘medical tourism’ is a complex and nuanced field. While visiting Haiti, he had the opportunity of interacting with Haitian surgeon Dr. Jean Hippolyte, who published content on this specific topic in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. In order to create lasting change, organizations must develop long-term stable relationships with partner hospitals based on mutual trust and respect. Collaborative, two-way knowledge transfer is a key component to build such respect.

Organizations must also ask how they are contributing to the development of local capacity for care for a future without them, and take care not to disrupt the local capacity in existence. Instead, they must strive to enrich it, which is a challenging task. TBE has been performing exceptionally well by establishing a near-constant presence at Bernard Mevs Hospital over the last 10 years and during this time period, they created strong bonds. Arbutus Medical left our tools behind at the request of the hospital and Bernard Mevs now has the ability to use them moving forward.

Arbutus Medical will continue to create tools that break down barriers to safe surgery and support groups delivering essential care, such as Team Broken Earth and Bernard Mevs Hospital.


This work was made possible through the Government of Canada’s Build in Canada Innovations Program (BCIP). Learn more about Arbutus Medical’s participation in BCIP here.