While Dr. Jim Toth ’86 won’t be going to Haiti this February, it’ll be a first – at least, the first time that’s happened in 15 years.
Dr. Toth has taken the trip twice annually since 2000. He’s gone to treat patients at The Whitney Clinic, the primary care clinic his Georgia church, St. Monica’s, founded several years ago.
The clinic has three exam rooms and three dental chairs. The team of doctors and dentists does everything from vaccinating and treating infections to dressing wounds and extracting teeth.
The medical missions started as an annual trip, but St. Monica’s realized it wasn’t really making an impact. So the initiative slowly grew. In 2003, The Whitney Clinic hired a nurse to treat high blood pressure. In 2005, it hired a doctor, who’s seen patients five days a week there ever since. There’s also a soup kitchen on the property now. “As a result, the incidence of disease dropped because people are better nourished,” Toth says. Toth, who until 2014 was medical director at the clinic, says he goes to Haiti because he feels it’s his duty as a physician, as a Catholic and as a parent. He recalls his very first mission trip in 2000, where he cared for a sick baby, and how it changed him.
“I’m in Haiti, where there’s no medical care, and I’m holding this baby girl in my arms,” he says. “She’s a year old, the same age as my daughter back home. I thought, ‘This could be my daughter.’ I looked at the parents and thought, ‘That could be me and my wife.’ And from that moment on, I just thought, ‘This is something I need to do. Because I can.’”
While Toth has seen some serious illnesses at The Whitney Clinic, the work never fails to fulfill him. “It’s a mix of spirituality, fellowship, partnership,” he says. “We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, but in a very tangible way we can bring our skills, supplies and medication to help people who need it. In return we get a huge influx of spiritual energy from the folks we’re treating.”
The patients range in age from newborns to the elderly.
Toth plans to return to Haiti for as long as help is needed, even if he can’t make it this year. “There are some really positive changes taking place,” he says. “Someday, the hope is, they won’t need us anymore.”
What type of physician are you at Kaiser Permanente?
I’m a Family Medicine physician in Kaiser’s Adult Medicine Department
Who makes up your family?
My wife, Catherine, my daughter, Claire. My brother, Jeff ’84; my sister, Jennifer ’94; and my parents, Joyce and Joseph.
You’ll never catch me_____.
Listening to country music. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday are more my style.
True happiness is_______.
Bare feet three inches deep in white sand.
What’s one of your hobbies?
My daughter and I go to a Krav Maga Martial Arts class once a week.