If there’s pain and suffering and a medical need, chances are he wants to be there. Dr. Ismail Mehr, 37, an anesthesiologist at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, N.Y., is preparing for the front lines of another disaster area. This time, it’s Haiti.

If there’s pain and suffering and a medical need, chances are he wants to be there.

Dr. Ismail Mehr, 37, an anesthesiologist at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, N.Y., is preparing for the front lines of another disaster area. This time, it’s Haiti.

Mehr is one of six doctors, two nurses and a logistics person who will depart Sunday and travel to the city of Croix des Bouquets to help people rocked by a 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12 that devastated Haiti.

Mehr, the chairman of the Islamic Medical Association of North America’s relief committee, is helping organize four successive relief teams.

“It’s addictive. Too many people when Gaza came said, ‘Why do you do it?’ I don’t know whether it’s a calling or a passion or if I’m very good at it either, but it’s addictive,” said Mehr, who has lost sleep in the past days coordinating IMANA’s efforts.

Mehr, who is leading IMANA’s second team, will be setting up a triage location and assisting with surgeries at field hospitals.

The doctor is no stranger to stomach-churning environments. In June of 2009 he traveled to Gaza during a dangerous Israeli military conflict and assisted patients at Third World medical facilities.

Before that he had traveled to two other disasters: In 2004 he helped out after a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that claimed upwards of a quarter of a million lives, and in 2005 he worked in Pakistan after a deadly earthquake.

When news broke of the recent tragedy, help was immediately on Mehr’s mind.

“The first thing I thought was how can I help? I identified how I was able to help on other missions,” said Mehr, adding, “IMANA is not a relief organization, but a society of Islamic doctors ... From a religious prospective, and with ethic values being a faith-based organization, it evolved 10-15 years back that one or two people would go and try to do stuff, but it has progressed into some large missions.”

Mehr said IMANA teamed up with the California-based organization Comprehensive Disaster Response Services to help coordinate the trip and gain entry to the chaos stricken region. 

Also traveling with the group is IMANA member Dr. Imran Qureshi, a radiologist from Dansville, N.Y.

“It’s an opportunity to to provide services to people in need, but it’s not only a benefit for them, but also a very rewarding and challenging personal experience,” Qureshi said.

“Almost every one of us who went to Gaza is helping out,” said Mehr.

The team will return Jan. 30, the same time a third team departs.

“This is about a sustained effort of volunteerism,” Mehr said. “Which is different from other missions.”

Michael Green, 37, is helping organize the logistics of the trip.

“I made the decision right when I heard. I wanted to go help. I know I have a lot to offer, to both the medical team and the injured,” said Green.

Green and Mehr played football together at Hornell High School and have been long-time friends.
Green said this is the 47th country he will have visited.

Mehr said people can follow the team’s progress by going online to www.imana.org, which the team will try to update with photos and videos detailing the experience.

The Evening Tribune