Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, July 10, 2010


Audrey Vass: A Real Sierra Madre Treasure

Mountain Views News Saturday, July 10, 2010

Audrey Vass is an amazing young woman. A true treasure of Sierra Madre who, while 
pursuing her own professional education (first year medical student), she has taken three 
weeks out of her life to help serve and save others.

 Audrey, with the help of financial assistance from local organizations such as the Sierra 
Madre Rotary and Sierra Madre Kiwanis Clubs, recently spent three weeks in earthquake 
torn Haiti, participating in the “Midwives For Haiti” program. The organization, which was 
originally established to promote midwifery education and primary health care for Haitian 
women. However, since the earthquake in January, the group has been working with other 
non-governmental agencies to provide post earthquake relief. 

 Audrey, started out as a community conscious young woman and has an impressive list of 
accomplishments while growing up in Sierra Madre. In 1995, when she was just 9 years old, 
she ran the entire Mt. Wilson Trail race in 1 hr and 42 minutes. In 2001, she was a Sierra 
Madre Rose Princess. From 1999-2003 she was a member of the Sierra Madre Interact Club 
and in 2002 and 2003 she was a Parks and Recreation board member.

 She attended Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy and graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 
2007 with honors in biology, she continues outstanding academic performance at Virginia 
Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Audrey has, “a passion for international 
medicine and obstetrics” and was glad for the opportunity to accept the Haitian Student 
Fellowship during this difficult time. 

Audrey and Carrie have shared some of their experiences with us through pictures and words 
on a blog. You can learn more about the work of this remarkable young woman by going to

“But if you’re asking my opinion, I would argue that a 
social justice approach should be central to medicine and 
utilized to be central to public health. This could be very 
simple: the well should take care of the sick”

Dr. Paul Farmer 

 One of the first posts on Audrey’s blog.

Audrey (left) and her co-worker, Carrie Down, (above) in Haiti where they first camped. 
Initially they worked in the Port Au Prince community of Cite Soleil and then moved on to the 
central plateau town of Hinche. (See map left). From the blog: We are flying from Port au 
Prince to Hinche- a rural area in the Central Plateau region- to work with the organization Midwives for 
Haiti. We will be working with both American and Haitian Nurse Midwives. We will be working again 
with pre and post natal care, as well as in the delivery unit. This program is unique in the respect that 
in addition to bringing in US health professionals it has established a program to train Haitian women 
in midwiferey.

In Haiti, 76% of all deliveries are done by non-qualified persons, contributing to the highest 
infant and maternal mortality in the western hemisphere. 15% of newborns have low birth 
weight and 25% of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition. The World Health Organization 
has estimated that the things professional midwives know how to do - preventative prenatal 
care, handling complications of pregnancy and birth, and teaching nutrition –could totally 
change these statistics.

 Midwives for Haiti was started by certified nurse-midwives who believe every woman in 
this world deserves the knowledge and care to have a safe pregnancy and birth. They also 
believe that even women who cannot read or write are teachable. With the right knowledge 
and tools, community women can make birth safer and keep babies and mothers from dying. 
They want to bridge the gap between the traditional birth attendants and the nurse-midwives 
trained in the medical model so that more women in Haiti have access to skilled care. 


Audrey ‘chatting’ with friends.

From Audrey’s Blog: Day 8

Today is the end of day 8. After seeing over 900 patients in clinic and 
distributing large amounts of drugs this week, mostly deworming 
drugs, Carrie and I are the only two left from the team of 20 we 
originally came with. Despite the tainted water ( which tested 
positive for giardia and ecoli) our stay has been basicially luxurous…
cold showers, a satellite telephone, and a gated church, of which we 
sleep on the roof in our mosquito nets. We are still adjusting to the 
horrible air quality due to the fact that they burn all trash in the 
streets- and the extensive exhaust from trucks while riding in the 
back of the “tap-taps”( which is the name for the pick up trucks with 
make shift benches of which we ride in all day that are not too safe…..
to say the least..but give your hair a good blow dry :)- We have been 
two church each sunday here- and have found it quite moving but 
yet have almost both fainted from the heat- the humidity and sheer 
wetness of the heat never fails to exhaust us- and the team whom we 
were with last week, despite over half of them falling ill due to the 
water, were the strength behind the service we provided. We worked 
with many truly amazing physicians and students; who have both 
motivated and inspired us. The need here is truly astounding- yet 
the pride the Haitain people have is even more remarkable. In 
clinic- lunch break is the absolute worst part of the day- because you 
take a break- to make the people wait who have been sittting there 
for 4 or 5 hours, to eat your lunch, and drink your clean water- both 
of which are utter luxuries and for which they dont complain…but 
sit quietly….despite their severe illnesses. Carrie and I have both 
triaged young men who are terminally ill with no where to go. On 
Thursday, I triaged a 20 year old man with an temperature of 105, 
coughing up blood, who couldnt 
walk to the clinic and told my 
translator that he had his friends 
carry him- but who sat and waited 
for 4 hours to be seen without saying 
a word- without complaining- and 
without even showing in his face 
how sick he actually was. We took 
him via ambulance to a Haitain 
hospital- where he was turned 
away. Neither of us could take it. 
Yesterday we spent the day out in 
Cite Soleil taking a break from the 
medical aspect, at a church that 
collapsed during the earthquake, 
helping rebuild the front wall with 
a father son contractor team from 
Cincinnati, Bill and Brent. Then….
Bill, who is a veteran of Haiti 
Mission trips, took us to the most 
amazing restaurant to watch the 
England vs USA game, which ended 
in a tie to our happiness. Today he 
graciously took us up the coast, to a 
beach resort, which was so beautiful 
we felt guilty. The white beaches 
and clear water were far from what 
we expected on our trip here 
in haiti, however they were 
quickly erased from our 
memory as we travelled back 
to the Blanchard compound, 
through the trash filled 
streets, sewage smelling air, 
and rubble filled shacks that 
surround the area with which 
we are staying. We met some 
other fellow aid workers 
this weekend who we will 
try to meet up with over the 
next few weeks- it seems as 
though most the people here 
are either our age or older. 
Most of the older crowd 
started coming to Haiti when 
they were young adults like 
ourselves- hopefully that is 
a sign that our work here is 
just beginning. More to come 
soon- wish we could show 
pictures which would tell so 
so much more. THANK YOU, 
to all of you who helped us get 
here, or who gave us supplies, 
they are much appreciated . 

Alape, Audrey and Carrie

Although often seen through the eyes of disaster and poverty, 
Haiti along with the Domincan Republic, occupies the picturesque

island of Hispaniola

Audrey Vass also gives genrously of her time to other 
organizations and charities. Above, she is seen giving a 
friend a ‘piggy back’ ride. The rider is one of Audrey’s 
“Smile Buddies”, children who have cancer. The little girl 
had just completed her last chemotherapy treatment. 

 Audrey is the daughter of Stephen and Debbie Vass of 
Sierra Madre. She has one sister, Alisha Wesserd

MVNews this week:  Page 11