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Saving the Day and Lifting Spirits A UTHSC resident volunteers at KellyUSA.

November 2005

Health Science Center students rose to the challenge as they spent countless hours tending to the needs of hurricane survivors sheltered in the Alamo City.

When Lee Jones, M.D., associate dean for student affairs in the Medical School, sent out his first call for student volunteers, he had 50 "yes" answers in the first 10 minutes, he said.

"I just got word that your medical students are saving the day," wrote Mary Ellen Burns, of the United Way of San Antonio & Bexar County, in an e-mail to Dr. Jones. "They are showing up in their scrubs, with their stethoscopes and are being put to work immediately. They are so eager and so capable that they are lifting spirits all around them. Thanks again! You are doing an incredible thing here."

Some medical students went to the shelters even after completing all-night shifts at the Health Science Centerís teaching hospital. Others were out in force during weekends moving cot by cot, surveying patients and assessing their general health status.

Catherine Pollock, a second-year medical student, recalled encouraging an elderly woman to eat. "The woman was curled up in a ball and did not want to get up," Pollock said. "We made a deal that she take two bites of food per hour."

Nan Clare, M.D., professor of pathology, senior associate dean and associate dean for academic affairs in the Medical School, said the hundreds of medical-student volunteers were organized into shifts to cover the intake and initial assessment of the Katrina victims at KellyUSA. Students were assigned to all four shelters around San Antonio.

The students plan to continue long-term service to survivors of the disaster. One project will be to continue epidemiological surveys, while another project will help child survivors develop a therapeutic means of dealing with the trauma of the hurricane such as documenting their experiences in their own handwriting or through artwork.

"In the midst of this terrible tragedy, it is wonderful to know that we have such remarkable people becoming physicians," Dr. Jones said.

The School of Nursing, the School of Allied Health Sciences and the Dental School also assisted the disaster victims.

"Some individuals put in more than 24 hours over a two-day period," said Robin D. Froman, Ph.D., R.N., dean of the School of Nursing.

Nursing faculty and students triaged patients, assessed vital signs, performed higher-level assessments as needed, helped patients secure prescriptions, administered immunizations, and educated victims newly diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. "We also dramatically assisted a baby who was in a life-threatening state of dehydration," Dr. Froman said.

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Updated 12/11/14