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Healthcare Crews Make a Difference in Mississippi

Several members of the NSU Health Professions Division and specifically the College of Allied Health and Nursing, moved head on into the devastation of Katrina and the wrath of Rita to make a difference in Mississippi. They, along with volunteers from the Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Dentistry, Psychology Pharmacy and others from around the country, saw a tremendous number of patients during their stay.

Crews from Nova Southeastern University have been staying from 1 to 2 weeks. Michael Funk, MPH, PA-C, the first NSU volunteer to arrive in Mississippi said that his crew was seeing 90 patients per day. Mr. Funk sent information from the scene in Mississippi, to the first full crew of NSU volunteers preparing to join him. Charles Lewis, MPH, PA, a retired Navy Commander now with NSU, worked with the Red Cross throughout his stay in Mississippi to improve environmental conditions in their shelters.

This volunteers' t-shirt says it all. (above)

The NSU crew (above) takes a break during one of many long days in the field.

John Rafalko, MS, PA-C, and Sean Leaonard, PhD, arrived with the first full NSU crew and provided primary health care and psychological services.

NSU Crew Arrives and is met by Mr. Funk.

NSU will continue to rotate crews to the areas of need for the next 3 to 6 months, or however long the need for medical care exists. The needs will remain for several months. The conditions will be changing soon and the weather will have an impact on the population and volunteers as the cold moves in.

Agencies involved in the effort are dealing with a situation that they have not dealt with in the past. Normally, they are in and out within a few weeks. This is an effort of lengthy duration and will require continued efforts of all agencies and volunteers.

This was the first site (left) of the D'Iberville, Mississippi clinic, which was housed in the tent above. There was also a distribution center and a cafeteria. This was in the parking lot of the Kroger Market. Unfortunately, the drain for the parking lot was in the middle of the clinic and when it rained there would be 4 - 5 inches of water in the clinic area. Also, it was exceedingly hot and humid in the tent.

Another clinic at the First Baptist Church of Biloxi gave the crew this Youth Center to sleep in. According to Mr. Funk, the only real relief efforts were through the faith based groups. The Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief teams are well organized, well trained, well equipped and very efficient. They served 10,000 meals a day from this one site, plus they ran a distribution center for supplying water, bay food, diapers and other household items by the semi trailer truck load to thousands of local residents. There are numerous similar sites throughout the affected areas.

This natural disaster also created technological issues with petroleum and chemical spills within the environment. Contamination of food and water increases the exposure of those remaining as well as relief workers to a number of potential hazards. The massive destruction of homes and businesses in the area will result in a lengthy clean up. The large amount of debris produced from buildings and other structures such as bridges will create disposal problems for contractors involved in recovery efforts. Many homes and businesses sustained water damage and are experiencing the growth of mold. This presents a health issue for occupants and workers. Accidents involving machinery are common and become more complicated by the interruption of sanitation in the area. The local economy has been severely impacted and many citizens have relocated in order to find jobs and to address other needs. Those who remain have encountered financial difficulties that may be slow to resolve. Many of the health professionals have left the area and may never return. Volunteer groups from sponsored agencies have begun offering relief to local citizens. Several of the local churches have established clinics and other resources. Local governments have also begun to reestablish infrastructure. A number of independent volunteers have offered services as well. Supplies including pharmaceuticals have been donated from around the United States.

This will be a lengthy process, and will require many months if not years for these hard hit areas to recover.

Note: Several health professionals from around the country volunteered in these clinics, but unfortunately, the IJAHSP does not have waivers to use their photos.

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