By Kim Wilhelm
She got about 24 hours notice - but Dr. Jennifer Koontz isn't complaining. After seeing images of the Haiti earthquake on television, the Newton doctor submitted her name to Heart to Heart International, a medical relief organization. She'll board a plane for Haiti early Wednesday morning and will spend eight days in Port-au-Prince helping the injured.
"It's a gift to have been able to learn medicine so it's nice to be able to use that when it's needed," said Koontz.
Koontz is no stranger to helping the less fortunate. While in medical school, she helped start a free, student-run indigent care clinic in Kansas City. She continued that work in Wichita at Guadalupe Clinic.
But the work in Haiti will no doubt present other challenges. For example, since food and water is in short supply, she must take enough supplies to be self-sufficient while she's there. She'll live in a tent and isn't sure whether they'll work out of a make-shift hospital or out on the street.
"It will be bittersweet to be there," said Koontz. "I'll see a lot of heartbreak and I think seeing so many children without parents will be one of the hardest things."
She's already been overwhelmed with community support. Koontz says her father-in-law raised $1200 in one hour at church when he found out she was going to Haiti. The Newton Medical Center donated $3000 in supplies she'll take with her.
"Hopefully we'll be able to make a difference," said Koontz.