Willing to help: A year after aiding Ukrainian refugees, Wright Center resident volunteers in Turkey

Apr. 11—When Dr. Chaitanya Rojulpote learned an earthquake devastated Turkey and Syria in February, he once again felt the need to serve others.

Just a year ago, the third-year internal medicine resident with the Wright Center treated Ukrainian refugees in Poland. As the death toll in Turkey and Syria climbed to more than 50,000 this year, Rojulpote bought cold-weather gear and nonperishable foods and booked a flight to the Middle East.

"You're giving them hope and letting them know that through the dark times, there are people willing to help," said the 30-year-old chief resident of research and scholarly activity.

Within two weeks of the earthquake, Rojulpote landed in Istanbul, Turkey, and caught a connecting flight to Adana. He then met up with other aid workers and traveled another four hours to Hatay province near the Syrian border. There he worked with International Medical Relief, an organization that provides health care to vulnerable and underserved populations by recruiting health care professionals. Rojulpote funded the seven-day trip on his own and took time off work.

As he and others worked in the hospital clinic on his first night there, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit. Buildings compromised by the earlier 7.8-magnitude earthquake crumbled, and the hospital was no longer safe. Rojulpote and others rescued as much medicine as they could and worked in tents nearby.

A bed on the ground served as a place to treat wounds, fractures and other injuries. The volunteers searched for medicine used to treat people's chronic conditions. Rojulpote watched a YouTube video to help him understand how to staple a scalp laceration for the first time. Scabies spread quickly as those displaced slept in close quarters.

He found the residents "shaken but not broken" — words meant to capture the resiliency of the Turkish people, he said. Before he left, he took a photo of words painted on a wall, which when later translated read, "We will build here again."

Rojulpote told his story to medical residents on Tuesday in the auditorium of the Wright Center for Community Health's Scranton practice, and encouraged his fellow doctors to volunteer their skills and knowledge.

Born in India, Rojulpote's family came to the United States and settled in Virginia when he was in second grade and moved to the King of Prussia area several years later. After high school, he returned to India for medical school. He joined the Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education's residency program in 2020, hoping to continue working with underserved populations.

A year ago, Rojulpote spent a week volunteering at a camp in the border village of Medyka, Poland. He and other medical volunteers cared for dozens of refugees daily.

Rojulpote's actions embody the true meaning of being a medical doctor, said Jumee Barooah, M.D., the designated institutional official at the Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

"In recent months, Dr. Rojulpote has been a witness to some of the world's worst humanitarian crises in both Poland and Turkey," Barooah said. "The Wright Center is proud of his extraordinary efforts to deliver care and hope to people experiencing manmade and natural disasters."

Contact the writer: shofius@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT on Twitter.