Responding to Harvey

How Health Science Center students, faculty and staff are serving those impacted by Hurricane Harvey
September 1, 2017

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our hearts are heavy with the devastation along the Texas coast, Houston and all of southeast Texas. Although the storm has left a path of sadness and loss for many communities, countless people have rushed to those areas to give what they could to help.

Here are some of the ways that Texas A&M University Health Science Center students, faculty and staff are aiding those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

COM students serve in Houston

Houston students volunteer

Texas A&M College of Medicine Houston campus students volunteered during the night shift at George R. Brown Convention Center, which is serving as a shelter for evacuees. In the medical tent on Monday night, there were roughly 500 people awaiting care, but only 20 health care providers at any time. Many people lost their medications in the flooding and had a variety of ailments, including opioid withdrawal, slipped spinal discs, uncontrolled diabetes, dog bites and dementia or delirium. Students worked with volunteer doctors and residents from area Texas Medical Center hospitals and other medical students from Baylor College of Medicine and McGovern Medical School, taking histories and assessments, performing physical exams and making plans for patients.

Houston campus students also volunteered on a medical team helping serve fellow Houstonians during graveyard shifts as NRG Stadium opened to accommodate people whose homes have flooded. Students worked in the medical triage area doing brief history and physical exams on people needing medical attention.

EpiAssist students help after Hurricane Harvey 

School of Public Health professor assesses Harvey’s damage

Jennifer Horney, PhD, interim department head and associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, is familiar with issues related to community resilience. Horney, a disaster preparedness expert, has previously conducted research on multiple public health disasters including Hurricanes Charley, Isabel, Katrina, Wilma and Irene.

Horney will also be working with EpiAssist students in Houston to assess the public health impacts of exposure to contaminated floodwaters. The group will conduct environmental sampling over the next several weeks as part of the Community Engagement Core section of the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center. They will collect soil and water samples in areas identified by community residents as locations for ponding and pooling of debris, as well as in areas adjacent to industrial facilities along the Houston Ship Channel. Samples will be analyzed at Texas A&M and results will be shared with local and state partners. Post-disaster data will also be compared with pilot data from an environmental vulnerability study conducted by Horney during spring 2017 in the Manchester neighborhood of East Houston.

Professor teaches class remotely

Faculty member serves on Veterinary Emergency Team

School of Public Health faculty member Angela Clendenin, PhD, served as the public information officer for the Veterinary Emergency Team, which was essential in saving the lives of animals across the region. Even though she deployed to the coast Sunday, Clendenin, who is an instructional assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, continues to teach her courses remotely, providing students with a firsthand look at disaster response.

Clendenin said the Veterinary Emergency Team partnered with Texas Task Force 1 to provide care for animals that may have been injured by the storm as well as service dogs in the field. Cargo trucks and veterinary trailers deliver fresh water, medication, food and other necessary items to continue to help service dogs and other animals that are in need of medical attention.

DeTar residents work around the clock

Resident physicians work tirelessly

Resident physicians from the Texas A&M and DeTar Family Medicine Residency Program, a three-year program in collaboration with the Texas A&M Health Science Center, worked under extreme conditions to provide medical care during Hurricane Harvey from Friday to Sunday in Victoria. The residents admitted patients and worked to make sure patient care standards were upheld.

CON student works during Harvey

College of Nursing former student works PICU during Harvey

Kristen Orchard ’16, former class council president and College of Nursing ambassador, played an active role at a Houston hospital during Hurricane Harvey. When the storm was making landfall, she was working the rounds at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Many of the providers stayed after their shift and kept the PICU adequately staffed. She was part of the entire staff that ended up taking on other jobs, such as laundry, so that everything could run efficiently.

College of Dentistry assembles supply kits, steps up in recovery needs

Texas A&M College of Dentistry is coordinating an effort to provide oral health care to refugees from the hurricane damaged areas. Together with corporate partner, Colgate, they are assembling basic oral hygiene kits for distribution. Additionally, in collaboration with the college’s community partners, the Agape Clinic and North Dallas Shared Ministries, urgent medical and dental care will be provided at these clinics. The College of Dentistry is also developing a plan for distributing the oral hygiene kits at the two community clinics.

Dental student groups are also stepping up in a variety of ways to assist Hurricane Harvey victims. Today, one group held a bake sale, with proceeds going to American Red Cross. Another group launched a hurricane relief drive to collect variety of items, including undergarments, linens, toiletries and baby products. Several other student groups are organizing activities for next week, recognizing that there will be an extended recovery process.

CBHEC provides supplies to communities in need

The Coastal Bend Health Education Center (CBHEC) recently traveled to Rockport and Aransas Pass and distributed Zika kits, mosquito spray, hand sanitizer and other various supplies to community members. Partnering with a local endocrinologist, CBHEC is also distributing glucometers, strips, and insulin donations from the American Diabetes Association to areas impacted by Harvey. In addition, the staff at CBHEC are conducting an assessment of what resources are needed in the 27-county region Healthy South Texas services that were affected by Harvey so that they can provide resources in most need by residents.

— Dominic Hernandez

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