Surviving Hurricane Katrina Reconstructing the Educational Enterprise of Tulane University School of Medicine

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Hurricane Katrina was one of the greatest natural disasters to ever strike the United States. Tulane University School of Medicine, located in downtown New Orleans, and its three major teaching hospitals were flooded in the aftermath of the storm and forced to close. Faculty, students, residents, and staff evacuated to locations throughout the country. All critical infrastructure that normally maintained the school, including information technology, network communication servers, registration systems, and e-mail, became nonoperational. However, on the basis of experiences learned when Tropical Storm Allison flooded the Texas Medical Center in 2001, Baylor College of Medicine, University of Texas-Houston, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and Texas A&M School of Medicine created the South Texas Alliance of Academic Health Centers, which allowed Tulane to move its education programs to Houston. Using Baylor's facilities, Tulane faculty rebuilt and delivered the preclinical curriculum, and clinical rotations were made available at the Alliance schools. Remarkably, the Tulane School of Medicine was able to resume all educational activities within a month after the storm. Educational reconstruction approaches, procedures employed, and lessons in institutional recovery learned are discussed so that other schools can prepare effectively for either natural or man-made disasters. Key disaster-response measures include designating an evacuation/command site in advance; backing up technology, communication, financial, registration, and credentialing systems; and establishing partnership with other institutions and leaders.



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