Dr. Elliot Gevis ’80 Makes House Calls, Even to Haiti

By Purnell T. Cropper | July 7, 2010

By Larry Atkins

When the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Dr. Elliot Gevis ’80 knew that he couldn’t just stand by and watch the tragedy on television without trying to help.

“Obviously, there was a need,” says Gevis, a practicing pediatrician in Philadelphia. “I started calling various relief organizations that were sending aid and medical help. I wanted to supply my services as a doctor.”

Eventually, Gevis connected with the Salvation Army, which arranged for him to go to Haiti for two weeks in February. He was put in charge of a makeshift medical clinic that had been established in a school compound.

The earthquake’s devastation was everywhere. “Those 20 seconds completely changed everyone’s life,” he says. “Hardly any buildings were left intact. There was a lot of constant fear of aftershocks. So many people had lost loved ones and were suffering post-traumatic stress.

Add to that the heat, humidity, flies, mosquitoes, and the fact that no one was allowed out of the compound at night due to the fear of crime.”

In spite of all the tragedy and adversity, Gevis was touched by the spirit of the Haitian people. “The people were great and resilient. They were appreciative of the help that we were giving. The children were happy, joking, and playful.”

In addition to being a pediatrician, Gevis is a member of the Philadelphia affiliate of Inn-House Doctors, a nationwide program established in 1991 that provides medical services, primarily to out-of-town visitors and tourists. Gevis is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He has treated top rock musicians, movie actors and actresses, comedians, and television stars. In one situation, Gevis treated a musician hours before a major concert at the E-Center in Camden, New Jersey, so that he could perform on stage that night. In another situation, Gevis went to the Philadelphia Airport to treat a 10-year-old girl who was about to leave for Hungary but had a high fever.

While his Inn-House Doctor job often involves long, irregular hours and complex medical problems, Gevis loves the work. “I love the diversity of the people that I treat. I deal with rock stars, babies, foreign travelers, and foreign dignitaries. I’ve met many great people. It’s also nice to see progression in my patients, such as one patient who couldn’t travel home due to a back injury. I also had a woman from Vancouver, Canada, who I had treated two years ago call me to say that her daughter was going to attend the University of Pennsylvania and that she was glad that I was there in case she had any medical problems.”

While at Arcadia, Gevis was captain of the basketball team for two seasons and averaged double figures in scoring during both seasons. Basketball is still a major part of his life. Even though he is 62 years old and has had two hip transplants and major injuries to his shoulder, knees, and ankles, Gevis still plays basketball three days a week, often against college-age students. He and his 75-year-old cousin Norty Levine play in highly competitive over 40 and over 50 basketball leagues in Northeast Philadelphia.

“Why should I stop playing?” says Gevis. “What else would I do? I play for the love of the game.”

Larry Atkins teaches Journalism at Arcadia.