/////UAMS AHECs Play Key Role Helping Evacuees
UAMS AHECs Play Key Role Helping Evacuees 2018-01-05T09:15:52+00:00

SEPT. 19, 2005 | Hundreds of volunteers, including a small army of health care workers, were waiting when the buses full of hurricane evacuees arrived at Fort Chaffee on Sept. 3.

The organization of doctors and health care workers and the systematic treatment of evacuees that followed was no accident.

Through its seven Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) – even before Hurricane Katrina had its name – the Regional Programs office at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) was preparing for such an event.

When the mile-long line of buses pulled up outside Fort Chaffee, UAMS’ local AHEC was ready.

All of the AHECs, led by Charles Cranford, D.D.S., vice chancellor for Regional Programs and Steve Strode, M.D., director of research and professional development for Regional Programs, had recently begun developing a plan for mobilizing a Medical Reserve Corps.

The AHECs have coordinated their emergency response efforts with the Arkansas Division of Health, a part of the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services.

In El Dorado and Jonesboro, AHEC faculty, residents and nurses participated in volunteer missions to communities requesting help for storm victims stranded in Pass Christian, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La.

In Texarkana and Pine Bluff, AHEC physicians pulled long evening and all night shifts at multiple shelters in churches, camps, and wherever evacuees were brought for evaluation and temporary assistance.

William Mason, M.D., chief of the Health Division’s Public Health Preparedness, said development of the local medical reserve corps had just begun, but AHEC Fort Smith faculty member Bryan Clardy, M.D., had moved quickly to establish the formal network of volunteers, which includes his colleagues at AHEC-NW in Fayetteville.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, Clardy, who serves as unit commander of the new Arkansas River Valley Medical Reserve Corps, was tapped by Gov. Mike Huckabee to implement an area medical response for the evacuees sent to Fort Chaffee. 

The AHEC in Fayetteville sent doctors and nurses to relieve the overworked Fort Smith medical teams during the peak days at Fort Chaffee. About 9,000 evacuees came through Fort Chaffee and about 2,000 required medical evaluations.

“We will be eternally grateful to Dr. Clardy for working with the Medical Reserve Corps and the AHECs at Fort Smith and Fayetteville for marshalling the forces at Fort Chaffee,” Mason said.

Mason coordinated with Clardy to keep medical supplies and prescription drugs flowing to the Fort Smith area from the Division of Health’s central supply, while  Arkansas state troopers provided a swift delivery system.

Strode and Cranford complimented Clardy and his Fort Smith colleague John Vinson, Pharm. D., for their efforts at Fort Chaffee.  

Meanwhile, faculty and residents at AHEC-Northwest helped local hospitals and area shelters manage the sudden influx of evacuees being dispersed from Fort Chaffee needing follow-up medical care, prescription refills and replacement supplies for chronic illnesses.

Other assistance provided by UAMS AHECs include:

–Employees at several AHECs, such as the Delta AHEC in Helena, started relief funds to help with medical needs of evacuees arriving in their towns. 

–Three former AHEC Northeast family medicine graduates established an emergency medical clinic at the Baton Rouge River Center Convention Center, that had been converted to a Red Cross shelter.

–AHEC Northeast Residency Director Joe Stallings, M.D., arrived in Baton Rouge with AHEC-NE residents, medical students and nurses loaded with medical supplies to assist in caring for storm victims for the next four days.

–AHEC-NE residents and faculty were the primary team caring for about 40 displaced mentally handicapped individuals at a church camp near Jonesboro.

–Residents and faculty at AHEC Pine Bluff saw large numbers of evacuees at the Pine Bluff Convention Center and a church camp near Redfield, in addition to providing care for evacuees at the AHEC clinic and Jefferson Regional Medical Center.  

–AHEC South Arkansas in El Dorado formed an emergency medical response team supervised by residency director Marilyn Marshall, M.D., to help victims in the devastated Gulf Coast town of Pass Christian, Miss., through Oct. 14.

–Janis K. Lewis, an AHEC-SA advanced practice nurse, helped conduct an advance assessment of needs in Pass Christian in preparation for the El Dorado team.    

–Senior residents at the AHEC-Southwest in Texarkana staffed a clinic for evacuees every afternoon, treating more than 30 evacuees and prescribing medications for 33 more. AHEC-SW also covered more than six emergency shelters in the Texarkana area.

–AHEC-SW, led by Russell Mayo, M.D., residency director, provided care to more than 60 evacuees in shelters. Mayo also supervised a resident on call each night at the shelters.