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Hurricane Katrina: medical students and trainee doctors caught up in chaos

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 01 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:0510356
  1. Douglas P Olson1
  1. 1Washington, DC

The devastation unleashed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita plunged many peoples' lives into chaos. The training of medical students and doctors was not spared. Douglas P Olson investigates

More than 2000 medical students, doctors in training, and graduate students were among those affected on 29 August as hurricane Katrina hit the US coast near New Orleans, Louisiana, as a category 4 storm. Katrina is the strongest hurricane to hit the US mainland since 1969. The hurricane brought 140 mile an hour (225 km an hour) winds and considerable flooding to the city and its environs, causing extensive damage to people and property.

Although New Orleans's well known sobriquet the Big Easy suggests capricious times and enjoyment, the weeks after the storm have been anything but easy at Tulane and Louisiana State universities. Medical trainees lost nearly everything books, cars, clothes, and a year of medical education.

Forced to evacuate

Students and junior doctors, starting a new academic year, were forced to evacuate the city. Many trainees from Tulane University were relocated to Houston and Galveston in Texas. Less than a month later, on 24 September, another hurricane, Rita, hit land near the Louisiana Texas border. Many of the 5000 medical students and doctors in training in Texas were evacuated again. Although hurricane Rita caused flooding and damage in Texas, its damage was far less than the devastation caused by Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. The effects of Katrina on the medical students and trainees will last longer.

Long term implications for medical education in the region remain unclear, but the short …

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