September 12, 2005
Emory offers help for victims on many fronts
BY Michael Terrazas
As the extent of damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina has been revealed over the past two weeks, Emory has mobilized relief efforts to help. Those efforts range across the entire enterprise, from Emory Healthcare doctors and staff providing medical assistance, to the University making room for displaced students in nearly every school, to the generosity of individual Emory community members who have opened their wallets to give.
A full reporting of the University’s efforts is nearly impossible as new challenges have sprung up daily, but Emory’s assistance has fallen roughly into three main categories: academic support, medical services and volunteer time and money. A website, www.emory.edu/hurricane2.cfm, has been established to publicize the latest news and information, including opportunities for volunteer efforts.
When Katrina flooded the streets of New Orleans, tens of thousands of students at all levels were suddenly left school-less. Though institutions like Tulane University and Loyola University New Orleans have pursued different strategies for putting their academic programs back together, Emory will be home this semester to as many as a couple hundred of their students spread across nearly every University school.
Again, with the application process remaining fluid through last week—individual students had the choice of where to apply for temporary enrollment, or even to apply at all—hard numbers are difficult to pin down. But at press time, the Rollins School of Public Health had enrolled some 32 students from the affected area, the School of Law had enrolled another 28, and about 100 undergraduates will be dispersed among Emory College, Oxford College, Goizueta Business School and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.
All students are being given transient status, meaning they are still officially enrolled at their home institutions and are only taking classes at Emory (like a summer study abroad program).
“Our role is to help in any way we can,” said interim law Dean Frank Alexander, who said he began communicating with the deans of the Tulane and Loyola law schools the day after Katrina made landfall.
Alexander said his school could accommodate 40 or more students, and on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 28 of them gathered in Gambrell Hall for an expedited orientation session that covered everything from classes to campus parking. “We squeezed two and a half days into two and a half hours,” Alexander said.
Emory College is holding a similar session today, Sept. 12, in the Jones Room of Woodruff Library, according to Senior Associate Dean Tom Lancaster.
“We’re just trying to tide them over academically, which is what Tulane and others have requested,” said Lancaster, who said the college has been working with the Office of Admission and Campus Life to meet that request as efficiently as possible.
Some details, both deans pointed out, have yet to be worked out. For example, Tulane second-year law student Elizabeth Kelvin said, as far as she knows, she is currently without health insurance.
“The key for us to get them here and get them in class so we can minimize their academic struggles,” Lancaster said. “We can work out the other things later.”
Beginning Thursday, Sept. 1, Katrina evacuees began arriving at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, and dozens of faculty and students from Emory’s schools of medicine and public health were there to greet them. They turned out as volunteers to help screen the evacuees and determine who required hospitalization.
Emory Healthcare (EHC) made available up to 200 beds in its hospital system for evacuated patients, and at latest count on Sept. 8, some 58 of those beds were filled at Emory and Crawford Long hospitals, and another five evacuees were housed at Wesley Woods. More than 50 patients were treated at the two hospitals and released.
EHC formed a patient locator line (404-686-3000) to assist anyone trying to determine whether an evacuee is being treated or housed at an Emory facility.
As the waters recede in New Orleans, public health has emerged as a top concern, and Rollins professors, students and staff are being pressed into epidemiological service. Gary Teal, senior associate vice president for health affairs, said some 90 students have volunteered to meet intake and rapid health-needs assessment for the second wave of evacuees expected to arrive in Atlanta Sept. 9–11.
Teal said the nursing school has been working closely with the American Red Cross to provide service at the evacuee shelters that have been created. In particular, Teal said, one shelter on N. Druid Hills Road has been “adopted” by Emory Hospital, in terms of providing medical supplies and support, and Crawford Long is looking to adopt a shelter of its own.
Several Emory physicians such as Art Kellermann, Charles Harper, Mark Williams and Alexander Isakov have formed a medical oversight team, Teal said, to determine where medical help is most needed. Many Emory doctors initially volunteered to travel to New Orleans. “But our decision was made early on to keep our resources here in Atlanta,” Teal said. “We were told the needs were going to come to us.”
“We’ve got to move at a sprinter’s pace,” said Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs, “but realize that we’re in a marathon.”
Volunteer time and money
An illustration of the generosity of the Emory community: At 9:44 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 6, Vice President and Deputy to the President Gary Hauk sent an all-Emory e-mail listing relief efforts and seeking 200 volunteers to help stack supplies at a Salvation Army warehouse the following Saturday. By 11:29 the next morning, Hauk was forced to send another all-campus message saying that more than enough people had already volunteered.
By Friday, Sept. 2, four days after the hurricane hit, Hauk had received all the offers Emory could handle to provide housing for Katrina evacuees. The University’s calls for time and monetary donations were almost immediate, beginning with President Jim Wagner’s first all-Emory e-mail on Wednesday, Aug. 31, and the response was just as quick.
EHC’s HealthConnections is staffing a phone line (404-778-7222) for anyone willing to volunteer time. In addition to urging donations to groups like the Red Cross, Emory has set up an online form (www.alumniconnections.com/donate/emory) for people to donate through the University. Hauk said donations will go into a central fund, to be directed to the most appropriate relief efforts.
“The nightmarish situation has riveted our attention and compelled the generous impulses of our community and those of many others,” Wagner wrote in a posting to the Emory hurricane relief website. “We are all deeply aware that many of our colleagues are affected in very direct ways by the loss of life and by the as-yet-unanswered questions about whether loved ones are safe. Some 93 of our students and an uncounted number of alumni call the affected areas home. For them, and for the safe-keeping of their families and friends, we offer our prayers and deepest sympathies.”