Campus Responds in Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

As news reports of the devastation and desperation wrought by Hurricane Katrina reach the UCSF campus, people are starting to take action. If early estimates hold true -- that thousands of people in New Orleans have died -- the hurricane could be the nation's deadliest natural disaster since at least the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, according to CNN. See Katrina's effects at a glance here. At UCSF, Chancellor Mike Bishop on Friday issued an email letter to the campus community commenting on the "human tragedy of unimaginable proportions." Read his message here. By midday Thursday, the UCSF School of Medicine was contacted by about a dozen Tulane University medical students with connections to the Bay Area who are looking to continue their education, according to Kathy Healy, director of student and curricular affairs at UCSF medical school. Healy and other school administrators are considering ways to help both medical students and prospective students whose studies are interrupted by the disaster. "We are referring Tulane students who call us to the Association of American Medical Colleges website, where updated information is being posted," said Healy."We have, however, been providing a very sympathetic ear to those Tulane students who have called us, especially those whose families live in the Bay Area. If Tulane asks us to accommodate some of their students, we will do what we can. It looks like we will have much more information next week." School of Medicine students and David Kessler, dean of the medical school, will be organizing efforts to raise funds for hurricane relief. Details of this effort will be announced next week. "We want to do everything we can both to help with the immediate crisis and to assist people affected by this overwhelming event for the long-term," said Kessler, who is also vice chancellor for medical affairs at UCSF. The UCSF School of Nursing is among nursing schools across the nation that is able to accommodate students and/or faculty in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs from schools impacted by Hurricane Katrina, according to Kathy Dracup, dean of the nursing school. A list of the nursing schools involved is posted on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing website. Meanwhile, California's emergency, rescue and medical forces are en route to the states hardest hit by Katrina, including a medical team from UC San Diego. Neal Cohen, vice dean of the medical school at UCSF, participated in a conference call on Thursday with representatives from the University of California about the medical response to aid the hurricane victims. UC has two different coordinated approaches, he said. "First, we will work with the California Healthcare Association (working with the American Hospital Association) to provide clinicians to staff MASH (mobile army surgical hospitals) that are being developed throughout the area. Each hospital will have about 250 patients and needs about 100 providers," Cohen said. "The University and the medical centers and schools are committed to supporting the staff, although the exact process by which all of this will be coordinated is still to be determined. "In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is coordinating efforts related to the transfer of patients to academic medical centers for specialized clinical services. Each campus has designated the medical director to serve in this role as the primary contact person." Ernie Ring, chief medical officer of UCSF Medical Center, is the liaison physician for UCSF. Call to Action For her part, Meg Autry, a professor and practicing physician in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, sent a note to her child's school with a heartfelt call to action. "I remember when the tsunami hit, we had a tremendous outpouring from the local and national community for relief," Autry said. "The daily newspaper is now revealing incredible devastation in our own country, and I was hoping at least from our local community we could encourage volunteer or financial support for the relief process." Autry, who is the community service representative at her child's school in San Francisco, sent out her letter to the school's listserv and for the campus bulletin. Here's an excerpt of what she wrote: "This week millions of Americans fled Hurricane Katrina. Across the South families abandoned their homes and businesses, not knowing what would be there when they returned. Many stayed behind and suffered devastating loss and injuries -- nearly a hundred have died that we know of, and hundreds of thousands need our help. "We would like to encourage you to help out the victims of the Hurricane. We realize that there are many relief agencies and we encourage you to donate to the agency of your choice. Otherwise the Red Cross is a great place to start." Indeed, those interested in offering assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the floods have many outlets through which to give. The American Red Cross has set up a system to target assistance in the areas most in need, according to its website. Donating to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund enables the organization to mobilize its mostly volunteer workforce to meet the critical needs of people wherever and whenever disasters strike. The American Red Cross is launching the largest response it has ever mobilized in response to a single natural disaster in its nearly 125-year history," said Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chair of the American Red Cross in an op-ed piece issued Thursday. "This massive effort will mobilize thousands of trained disaster relief workers, who will provide safe shelter, warm meals and comforting shoulders to lean on." To help the scores left homeless, the political action organization on Thursday launched an emergency national housing drive to connect hurricane refugees to temporary shelter. While San Francisco may be too far for most victims, people with friends and family who live in the southeast within 300 miles can ask them to open their doors to those in need. People can post their offer of housing (a spare room, extra bed, even a decent couch) and search for available housing online. The Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) activated the California Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, swift-water rescue teams and disaster medical assistance teams on request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in the disaster. OES is in contact with states affected by Hurricane Katrina to determine whether additional support is needed. Read full story here. Source: Lisa Cisneros

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How to Help (New York Times)