Health care professionals from Stony Brook Medicine pose for a...

Health care professionals from Stony Brook Medicine pose for a group photograph on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, before departing for Puerto Rico to help with relief and health services. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

A team of doctors, nurses and specialists from Stony Brook Medicine headed to Puerto Rico on Tuesday for two weeks to help people still suffering after Hurricane Maria and to relieve other medical personnel there.

The 23-member group of volunteers — part of a regional team of about 75 health care professionals in the state — includes specialists in emergency medicine, surgery and pediatrics.

Dr. Richard Scriven, a pediatric surgeon and Emergency Medical Service specialist at Stony Brook, said the effort represents just the type of opportunity he went to medical school for.

“It’s really gratifying to help others — helping people in need as a physician,” said Scriven, 52, as he was waiting for the plane to depart from Kennedy Airport. “After 30 years [as a doctor], it rejuvenates the sense of why I wanted to go into the medical field initially.”

Scriven said he expects to work 12-hour days for the length of the trip.

“I’ve been on surgical missions in Ecuador and Africa, but no disaster relief missions,” he added.

An agreement between all 50 states and Puerto Rico and Guam allows participants to request medical assistance in disasters, according to Eric Niegelberg, associate director for emergency services and medicine at Stony Brook.

New York “mobilized resources that Puerto Rico said would be helpful,” Niegelberg said. Other members of the New York State group that left Tuesday include staff from New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the University of Rochester Medical Center, he added.

The Stony Brook team will help relieve another group of 77 New York State health care professionals that will return on Thursday after a roughly two-week stint.

About 100 Stony Brook staffers volunteered for the trip, according to a hospital spokesman, Greg Filiano, adding there was a great desire to help.

Scriven said some members of his team will stay in a closed wing of a Puerto Rico hospital, while others will stay in tents.

Others on the Stony Brook team include Dr. Rolando Valenzuela, an emergency medicine specialist who has extensive international emergency medicine relief mission experience; and Amanda Eloma, a pharmacist who brings expertise to determine the medication needs in Puerto Rico.

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