PCOM Georgia Med Student Helps Turkish Earthquake Victims

Inara Patton

Thursday, March 30th, 2023

Inara Patton (DO ’26) is a registered cardiovascular invasive specialist and registered cardiac electrophysiology specialist with six years of experience working in hospitals across the United States. Her first degree is a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. She is currently pursuing a medical degree at PCOM Georgia.

Patton emigrated from Russia to America in 2011 and earned an associate’s degree in invasive cardiology technology from Florida Southwestern State College. After graduating, she landed her first job at Tampa General Hospital in a cardiac catheterization lab. From there, she moved to Anchorage, Alaska, continuing to work in cardiovascular laboratories and completed coursework towards a degree at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Doctors in Alaska inspired, supported and encouraged her to pursue a medical degree.  

Pursuing a DO degree

Patton intentionally pursued an osteopathic medical degree. She said, “I believe in an osteopathic approach to medicine first of all. Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine is an established school with an extended history and connections.”

In addition, she occasionally worked with Alaska cardiologist Linda Ireland, DO ‘98, MBA, FACC, a PCOM graduate who currently serves as president of the Alaska Heart and Vascular Institute and governor of the Alaska chapter of the American College of Cardiology. ”She is very inspiring,” Patton said.

Patton applied to and was accepted at PCOM Georgia where she started her medical school journey in August 2022.

This is her story about her trip to Turkey in February less than three weeks after the country’s devastating earthquake.

Imagine large cities such as Niagara Falls, New York, or Sarasota, Florida, being destroyed within 96 seconds. All that is left are ruins--and bodies. That is what happened in Turkey on February 6, 2023. The official number of deaths is approximately 50,000, but this number will rise as the Turkish government continues recovery and cleanup operations. 

 As soon as I heard about what happened, I started looking for opportunities to volunteer. On Friday night, February 24, after my finals, I was in the Atlanta airport on my way to Istanbul. Our team met in the Adana airport in Turkey to catch a van to Hatay Province, ground zero of the earthquake. There were five of us, all from different states, and all with different backgrounds.  We had two nurses, two paramedics, a middle school teacher, and a cardiac catheterization lab technologist/medical student. Clearly, we all had A-type-personalities, were highly motivated, and extremely intelligent. No wonder we all immediately “clicked’ together. 

After several hours on a bus, we finally arrived at our camp. Pictures cannot reflect the devastation of the city. Interviews cannot depict the grief of these people. Nothing can explain this feeling of overwhelming tragedy. Still, these people smiled. They were thankful to see us because, as some said, “The Turkish government doesn’t help them, but Americans do."

 We slept three in a tent. No bathrooms, no showers, an outside table to serve as a kitchen. We were told that we were lucky because, just a few days before our arrival, the camp received electricity. I don’t think I need to talk too much about living conditions there--just imagine a bad camping trip without any accommodations. 

Taking care of patients

Two doctors were already on site, taking care of patients. Translators from all over Turkey did their best to explain medical terminology and comfort local people. They had the tough job of filtering and interpreting pain and grief for these people.  Our team worked approximately 12 hours per day with a patient load of 200 to 250 people every day. 

 We saw a lot of kids and adults with respiratory diseases, a lot of patients with urinary tract infections, scabies, burns, muscular injuries, broken bones and allergies…and of course mental trauma. I don’t think I will ever forget an elderly lady who cried and wouldn’t let go of me because I reminded her of her 25-year-old granddaughter who died during the earthquake. I asked one man if anyone else in his tent had similar symptoms, and he said, “No, all my family is dead. I’m alone”. I’ll never forget that moment. 

We all had to take several breaks during the day in order to hold back tears in front of patients. We comforted each other just behind the tent. 

I want to believe that I made lifelong friends during this trip. Of course people are people, and there are always ones who try to take advantage of others, make money on one’s tragedy, or make promises without meaning to keep their word. 

Right now, I’m working on ways to help these people from the comfort of my home. My friend and classmate, Brianna Chambers (DO ’26), and I are organizing a fundraiser for the victims of this terrible disaster. All money raised will be directly donated to a doctor or local leader on the site. Please contact me to learn more about how to help the victims of this disaster.