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Utah man recalls dual roles he served in Haiti


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Journalists usually try and observe situations -- documenting them, but not becoming part of them. But a Utah doctor found himself caught in the middle while volunteering in Haiti as both a medical professional and a professional photographer.

"Every time you do something like this, it will stretch you a little bit more and kind of set you up for the next thing," Joel Adams told KSL News Friday.

A month ago, he was finishing up a surgical residency and contemplating his future. His "next thing" was supposed to be another medical residency, but his passion for photography was pulling him in another direction. He was getting ready to make a major career change, then came news of a major disaster.

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"The [Haiti] earthquake happened," he said.

Addams had time on his hands, and unique qualifications: he's a doctor and speaks French fluently. When he heard about the Utah Hospital Task Force, he immediately volunteered to fly to Haiti.

"Within an hour, they had slotted me a seat," Addams said.

The group worked around the clock, mostly running an intensive care unit. Addams found himself caught between working as a photographer and documenting the disaster, to becoming a part of the story as a medical professional providing aid to the thousands of sick and injured.

"It's just hard to see people without food, basically; just very basic things that they just don't have access to," Addams said.

His images are of both the people he served as a doctor and the sites around him, including a nursing school where an estimated 100 students were still buried. It was a delicate balance.

"Some days I would just say, ‘I'm leaving the camera home," Addams recalled.

Addams says serving in Haiti has renewed his love of medicine.

After working down there, I kind of feel like there's still a need for both things," Addams said. "So, I think in the future I'll kind of combine the two."

Addams says he is considering going back to Haiti to continue to serve. He wants to combine his love of both professions by working on international health care projects.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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