Members of the AAMC Leadership Team have been in contact with medical school deans and teaching hospital CEOs throughout Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico to offer support.
“Given the unprecedented events after Hurricane Maria, we have been in frequent communication with the four LCME-accredited U.S. medical schools in Puerto Rico,” said John Prescott, MD, AAMC chief academic officer.
As deans fromassess the damage and try to communicate with their students, the immediate priority is to address the medical and public health needs of Puerto Rico’s residents. The schools are in various stages of reopening and are continuing to have difficulty with basic services, including phone and internet. Over the coming weeks, deans from the schools—Ponce Health Sciences University School of Medicine, San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine, and University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine—will prioritize the needs of their students. Prescott noted that leaders at several AAMC member institutions across the country have expressed a desire to support colleagues in regions impacted by the hurricanes. The AAMC is providing regular updates about hurricane response efforts on its . The AAMC also made a contribution to the American Red Cross to support hurricane relief efforts.
The four medical schools in Puerto Rico, all of which are AAMC members and fully accredited by the LCME, educate physicians who help contribute to the diversity of the physician workforce and will be able to provide culturally competent care to Spanish-speaking populations. In addition, the schools have a special mission to address community health needs in Puerto Rico, and have overcome challenges related to size, limited funding, and a location separated from the mainland, according to an article originally published in the AAMC Reporter in 2015.
Regarding health and safety, the AAMC has emphasized to the four deans that it will provide help in whatever way it can. The AAMC is communicating with the deans in Puerto Rico regarding their urgent needs, damage sustained, location of students, current challenges, and daily progress, and is working to help students who are applying for residency or medical school or who have registered for the MCAT® exam. In addition, the AAMC is sharing information with medical school deans and other academic leaders on the mainland and working closely with the LCME and other stakeholder organizations, such as the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
Responding to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma
At Florida International University (FIU) Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, an everyday part of the curriculum became a key piece of the response. As participants in the college’s program, students provide primary and preventive services throughout the community in mobile health centers. After Hurricane Irma passed through, teams used the centers to provide care for those in need. “This is our medical school’s mission in action, and I think this proves you can use an institution of higher education to help a community become more resilient after a disaster,” John A. Rock, MD, founding dean and vice president for health affairs at FIU.
Several medical schools and teaching hospitals in affected areas responded by mobilizing crisis plans and developing creative solutions.
- In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Miami, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine a volunteer team to West Kendall Baptist Hospital to treat patients as they arrived at the hospital’s emergency department. At the University of Miami Health System, among 105 physicians, nurses, administrators, and other staff enabled the hospital to continue delivering most services. In addition to treating hundreds of patients, staff held an impromptu birthday party for three children whose parents were working during the storm.
- At Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, several faculty members before Hurricane Harvey left the area and organized groups of physicians and other professionals to treat patients at shelters. In addition, Victoria Mitre, a fourth-year medical student at Baylor, to organize student volunteers who began working at clinics as they reopened and gathering donations immediately after the storm. About 10% of faculty, staff, and students at Baylor had significant damage to their homes or cars during the storm, according to Claire Bassett, Baylor vice president of communications and community outreach. The school organized teams that helped those with damaged property begin to clean up, and organized a fund to help with the financial costs of rebuilding.
- More than 1,500 health care team members from University of Florida (UF) Health and UF Colleges of Medicine during Hurricane Irma. Many emergency services remained open throughout the storm. UF Health Shands hospital system made arrangements for more than 1,000 faculty, residents, and staff to stay overnight at the hospital to ensure the 800 inpatients received care.
- Faculty and students at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, to care for evacuees from Houston following Hurricane Harvey. Volunteers triaged patients, provided medical supplies, and helped arrange for donations and blood drives. A month after Hurricane Harvey, UT Southwestern it will provide free telemedicine services to Texas residents affected by the hurricane through the video and text messaging app Cirrus MD.
In 2005, Elizabeth Dupont was beginning college when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, where her family lived. Now a fourth-year student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dupont during the aftermath in Einstein’s blog, The Doctor’s Tablet. “We became dependent upon the hard work, good motivations, and mercy of others,” she explained, noting that communities will need support for many years. Reflecting on how to address both short- and long-term needs, Dupont wrote, “The bottom line: Get involved. It will make a difference.”