October 3 , 2005
healthy and whole-hearted response
Johns is executive vice president for health affairs.
According to Mapquest, the distance between Atlanta and New Orleans
is 469 miles. Last month, the catastrophe known as Hurricane Katrina
compressed that to almost no distance at all. Although the hurricane
had lost most of its fury by the time it brushed past Atlanta, we
will feel its effects in the metro area for weeks, months and possibly
years to come.
Our community has been working hard to shoulder our share of the
burden, and not just in health care. It is fair to say the entire
University has responded,
driving home the point that protecting and ensuring the public’s health
cannot be understood or accomplished in narrowly medical terms.
Faculty, staff and students of our Woodruff Health Sciences Center
have, of course, been extensively involved. Almost immediately,
as the impact of Katrina
became clear, Emory Healthcare initiated twice-daily operations meetings, chaired
by Emory Healthcare CEO John Fox, to manage the Katrina influx as the evacuee
airlift picked up steam.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, Emory received our first airlifted medical
evacuee from New Orleans, an automobile accident victim who was
flown into Dobbins Air Reserve
Base in Cobb County and transferred to Crawford Long Hospital. That was only
the beginning. Over the next four days, Dobbins received more than 1,600 evacuees
from Louisiana on both military transport and commercial flights. Dozens of
Emory faculty and students were part of the screening and triage system that
helped classify and route incoming evacuees.
About 40 percent of patients hospitalized in Atlanta-area hospitals
ended up in Emory Hospitals or affiliates, including Crawford
Long, Emory, Grady Hospital
Emory-Adventist Hospital and EHCA Hospitals. More Katrina-related patients
showed up at our emergency departments, some part of the airlift, many others
having left New Orleans or the Gulf States on their own and now needing medical
attention. All were seen and treated.
Hospitalists at Crawford Long organized “Team Katrina” to
provide necessary coverage; the Department of Medicine at Grady doubled
of faculty covering the Urgent Care Center beginning Friday and extending through
Several Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing faculty threw themselves
into organizing work with the Red Cross; nursing students joined
an oncology resident
to meet the surging demand at a Salvation Army shelter on N. Druid Hills Road.
Emory Hospital then “adopted” this shelter and supplied nursing
as well as medical coverage arranged through the School of Medicine. Emergency
medicine and family and preventive medicine teams based at Grady scrambled
to organize medical responses at neighborhood clinics and shelters.
The Rollins School of Public Health assembled teams of public health
students to visit six metro shelters and compile daily reports,
under the direction
of the lead epidemiologist in the state health department.
Pastoral services committed to visiting every patient on every shift. Social
services collected donations of clothing and shoes and personal care items
for patients who came in with the clothes on their back and shoes that were
moldy from walking through filthy water. Both departments went on double
Many efforts were made to reconnect patients with worried loved
ones. Crawford Long organized a patient-locator number for evacuees
located anywhere in
the Emory Hospitals (404-686-3000), and Wesley Woods volunteered apartments
evacuees and accepted transfers from Crawford Long.
Equally important and impressive have been the contributions of
time, money and volunteer service from all over campus. President
Jim Wagner directed
all schools to develop appropriate response plans. The college, graduate
schools have opened their classrooms to displaced students. Faculty,
students and staff have volunteered for a wide array of critical
tasks and have
run or donated to relief materials and fund drives.
As a University, our recent planning brought forth an overwhelming,
campus-wide desire to engage more with our communities, both
locally and beyond. As the
Katrina and Rita responses shift from an acute phase to a longer restoration
and healing phase, and we all contemplate the lessons to be learned, we can
be proud as Emory shows it is ready to engage whole heartedly.