Medical Student Perspective: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria

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In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that devastated so many last year, the AAMC asked medical students to share their experiences both during and after the storms.

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After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated so many in August and September 2017, the AAMC’s Aspiring Docs Diaries team asked medical students to share their experiences. We were surprised and inspired to read that these students chose not to focus on their own hardships, but instead on how their medical schools and communities came together to help each other and serve patients in need. Even in the aftermath of so much destruction, these medical students were able to share their stories of rebuilding, personal growth, and hope. We have compiled each of their stories below, and hope you find inspiration and encouragement in the strength of the medical community in times of need.

Kindness in the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

David Savage, UTHealth McGovern Medical School, class of 2018

“That day I was reminded that in times of distress, kindness can move mountains. It also reinforced that being a physician is about loving your fellow man and helping in any way you can. Comprehensive medical care like this is just the kind I aspire to practice in the future, and it goes beyond typical ‘doctoring.’ Sometimes you improve people’s lives outside of the emergency department and exam rooms.”

Read more of David's story.

Becoming a Refugee Medical Student

Elsa Rodriguez, San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, class of 2019

“As soon as we boarded the ship, my classmates and I spoke to the ship’s medical director and offered to volunteer. The opportunity to help and share my medical knowledge with others who had just undergone experiences similar or worse than my own was beyond any recompense. We worked closely with the ship’s doctors, nurses, and staff members who were all donating their time to heal passengers.”

Read more of Elsa's story.

Waiting for Irma

Chelsea Cosner, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, 2019

“Mr. S. faced struggles in that dark room of the neuro ICU that I could not imagine. However, I could not help seeing how some of his feelings mirrored so many of my own those days before and after the hurricane. Unsure of what was to come, frightened, hopeful.”

Read more of Chelsea's story.

Houston’s Response to Harvey

Colin J. Rog, Baylor College of Medicine, class of 2018

“I witnessed compassion. Folks from all over the southeastern United States took vacation time, packed up their boats, drove to Houston, and launched them in the streets in order to help first responders with rescue efforts. Simply helping others was the norm, not the exception. It affected me deeply that those who suffered the most loss were often the ones who thought of others before themselves.”

Read more of Colin's story.

When Disaster Strikes, Rebuild

Gabriel Martinez Alvarez, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, class of 2020

“My experience reinforced the importance of listening and taking into account situations and environments when treating a patient’s conditions. Perhaps more significant than that was a life lesson my people taught me: when disaster strikes, rebuild. Everyone is suffering together, but they are also all rebuilding together. There is a lot of work to do, but with the positive attitudes of the people, time, and patience, the island will breathe life again.”

Read more of Gabriel's story.

Hope After the Storm

Lymaries Velez, University of Florida College of Medicine, class of 2020

“Puerto Ricans had effectively become refugees overnight. During the panel, tears began to stream down my face knowing that this physician’s former struggles are now what face my own family. After seeing my reaction, the panelists kindly took me to coffee to comfort me and asked how they could help. From that simple coffee talk, we created the Puerto Rico Relief Initiative.”

Read more of Lymaries' story.

Healing from Harvey

Victoria Mitre, Baylor College of Medicine, class of 2018

“The homeowners frequently called me and texted me to express their gratitude and to boast about how their remarkable volunteers completed in one day what they alone could not have accomplished in weeks. As devastating as Harvey was, I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand the BCM community’s generosity in the face of adversity, and how Houston began healing from Harvey with the help of diligent and talented individuals working together.”

Read more of Victoria's story.

A Heart to Heart Experience

Fernando Rivera, San Juan Bautista School of Medicine, class of 2019

“The next day, five other medical students and I joined the Heart to Heart team. None of us had electricity, potable water, internet, or stable cellular reception, but we left our families to help those who could not help themselves. During that day, we treated patients in the emergency room of Caguas Mennonite Hospital, and it served as our training for things to come in the next few days.”

Read more of Fernando's story.

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