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The NIH Director

NIH Activities: Hurricane Katrina

September 4, 2005

To: All NIH Staff
From: Director, NIH
Subject: NIH Activities: Hurricane Katrina

I have always been proud to be Director of NIH, but never more than this week.

There has been an outpouring of generosity, compassion, and commitment from NIH employees at all levels to do whatever we can to assist in the relief effort. We have an incredibly talented group of people here at NIH.

I want to update you on what NIH staff has accomplished this weekend.

  • We have created and activated a national coordination and referral center for specialty medical consultation;
  • We are deploying both an advance team and a medical team to our assigned field hospital location, Key Field at the Air National Guard Base in Meridian, Mississippi; and
  • The Clinical Center has made 100 beds available here in Bethesda for accepting patient transfer should the need arise.

None of this could have happened without the conscientious and dedicated work of our staff and our partners.

Medical Coordination and Referral for Physicians Hotline Activated

We have opened and staffed our medical coordination and referral center with a toll-free line (1-866-887-2842) to provide consultation on individual cases.

The call center, with the help of AAMC, is linked to a nationwide network of our academic health center partners, who stand ready to assist. As of yesterday, we were staffed 24/7 to offer special expertise in: Infectious diseases and tropical/geographical medicine, ophthalmology, oral medicine, psychiatry, cardiac/pulmonary diseases, genetic diseases, pediatric endocrinology, pediatric metabolism, obstetrics/gynecology, and adult endocrinology. And we are still in the process of building additional capacity.

Field Hospital Operation Deployed

NIH has organized an advance team, with the collaboration of the NIH Clinical Center, NIH staff, and NIEHS Director Dr. David Schwartz and his colleagues in North Carolina, as well as volunteers from Duke University. Through the tireless efforts of Dr. Pierre Noel and CAPT Elaine Ayres, who will lead the team, and CAPT Diane Walsh, who is the NIH liaison with the Secretary’s Operation Center, the team will begin leaving today for Mississippi to help coordinate the first wave of staff for the 250-bed field hospital. The full medical team, including approximately 100 personnel will follow in the next two days.

Clinical Center Director Dr. John Gallin and his staff have been incredible in making all three medical efforts a success. And the assistance of the NIH IC leadership in supporting consultation and referral efforts, has been outstanding.

Clinical Center Beds Available

NIH staff has identified 100 beds and staffing to be available in the Clinical Center for specialized, acute referrals, if needed.

Over the weekend, the NIH Command Center continued to operate in the Office of the Director. A website is active to provide information to NIH staff and the public. Additional linked web sites have been created to help academic partners and grantees. Communications have been sent to NIH grantees and intramural Principal Investigators. NIH is in communication with its commissioned officers, 23 of whom have been deployed and 58 are ready to deploy when called.

We know this is going to be a long effort. I am particularly heartened by the wonderful offers of help from so many in our NIH family through the NIH mailbox at nihkatrinaresponse@mail.nih.gov . We will continue to call upon those who volunteered as the needs become clearer. I thank you all for your help and your concern. Our thoughts are with the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

I will keep you updated as we learn more. We will continue to post information to the NIH Katrina Response website, so if you have staff that don't have access, please be sure they are also informed about our progress.

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.

This page last reviewed on February 14, 2011

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