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October 2005 Issue

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UC Staff Travels South to Provide Disaster Relief

Published October 2005

When the call went out to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, UC Academic Health Center staff, faculty and students didn't think twice about contributing to the university's overall disaster support initiative.

Health center employees and students opened their pocket books, worked to provide temporary enrollment for displaced graduate students, and in many cases, volunteered at phone centers to find supplies and living space for hurricane victims.

Others, including Lynne Wagoner, MD, UC cardiology professor and director of cardiac transplant services at University Hospital, and Ginger Conway, UC cardiac nursing practitioner, packed their stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs and headed south to provide urgent medical care.

Together, they led the UC contingent for a week in the Cajun Dome in Lafayette, La., 90 miles outside of New Orleans, exemplifying the Academic Health Center's can-do response.

They were quickly joined by Jeff Askew, MD, UC cardiology fellow, who had been in the military at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton and had disaster drill experience, and Barb Bell, a master's candidate in the UC College of Nursing.

In addition, Brian Pavlin, owner of Medical Therapies, and Tom Finn, of Western & Southern Life Insurance, volunteered to help drive the group.

When word spread that the team was heading south, donations from the community started to pour in, including $5,000 worth of medicine and medical supplies from University Hospital and the Health Alliance, a loaner van from Jeff Wyler, UC Board of Trustees, and money, gas cards and other support from UC staff.

"We couldn't have made this trip without the generosity of many Cincinnatians," says Dr. Wagoner.

While in Lafayette, the team worked side by side with the American Red Cross and other medical volunteers from across the country in an emergency triage clinic.

"We were the new recruits on the first day at the Cajun Dome clinic," says Dr. Wagoner. "After that, people were asking us for advice, like we were in charge."

The team treated people with diabetes, high blood pressure, skin rashes, dysentery and other infectious diseases carried by the toxic flood waters.

"It was a hard experience," says Dr. Askew. "These people quickly went from celebrating the fact that they survived to realizing that they had nothing left. I felt real bad."

Dr. Wagoner, like Dr. Askew, describes the experiences as disturbing, yet satisfying because she felt that she and her colleagues were able to make a difference.

"The Red Cross really had everything set up so well at the dome that it could be used as a model for planning at other dome emergency shelters in the future," adds Dr. Wagoner. "We sent patients needing special services to the area hospitals and relied more on what we observed and what we knew to treat the majority of the people."

Providing Relief in Many Ways

With the recent onset of Hurricane Rita, the need to provide disaster relief is at an all-time high. The response of Academic Health Center employees and students has been incredible. The following is just a glimpse of what others have done--and are still doing--to provide relief:

How You Can Help

The easiest way to help victims of the hurricanes is to make a monetary donation to UC's Hurricane Relief Fund, which runs through Nov. 1. All money raised will be donated to the American Red Cross.

To help, please mail a check payable to the University of Cincinnati, and note the "UC Hurricane Relief Fund," to the University of Cincinnati, Hurricane Relief Fund, PO Box 210638, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0638. Donations can also be dropped off in the COM Dean's Office, 251 Medical Sciences Building, or in the Academic Health Center's Office of Finance and Administration, 187 Health Professions Building.

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