The answer to reestablishing communications for both institutions turned out to be the Internet. Web sites were quickly developed by members of both programs, and that information was spread from person to person. Within a day or two, both chairmen were reestablishing contact with their residents and staff.
Explore This IssueJune 2006
After locating their people, the priority became the continuity of the residency programs. Within 48 hours, school administrators were networking to try to find locations for people to resume their residencies. Offers for assistance poured in from educational institutions and hospitals across the United States. Louisiana State University has the advantage of being part of a large system of state hospitals in Louisiana, and residents from their program were shifted to these other hospitals almost immediately. Otolaryngology residents from Tulane were temporarily transferred to institutions in other areas, including Dallas, Nashville, and Atlanta. In most cases, residents were offered free housing and expenses.
However, transferring the residents was not as simple as moving them to the new facilities. There is always paperwork involved, and the records for both schools remained literally under water. Additionally, they were operating for the most part without any support staff. Secretaries, assistants, and clerical staff were not readily available to generate the documentation requested by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medial Education (ACGME). However, once the ACGME was made aware of the desperateness of the situation, staff there worked with both institutions to ensure that the residents were placed in programs that had “all the right ingredients.” They saw to it that the residents were placed in programs that could support the additional residents without diluting the residents’ educational experiences. Dr. Nuss credits Patrick Brookhouser, MD, the Residency Review Committee Chair and Robert Miller, MD, Executive Director of the American Board of Otolaryngology as being instrumental in working toward this goal.
Some of these “temporary placements” have become permanent. Three residents chose not to return to Tulane. While understanding the reasons behind their decisions, Dr. Amedee is still saddened by the loss. He said, “It pained me to have people go away that I knew I’d never see again, because we chose them so carefully.”
On the positive side, for Louisiana State University’s program, some of the changes have evolved into wonderful educational experiences that they hope to continue over the long term.
While he wouldn’t want to live through it again, Dr. Nuss expressed a deep pride in his residents and colleagues, noting that there was an important lesson to be learned: “One of the most interesting things about this has been the degree to which these medical professionals have been able to stay focused on professional obligations even while many of them took some very serious hits in their personal lives. It was humbling to watch how well residents and faculty have been able to provide care to patients above and beyond the call of duty, and then going home to hotels or trailers or temporary living arrangements, and having to help friends and neighbors recover in the meanwhile. As awful as a lot of the things were that happened after Katrina, there was ample evidence that there are still a lot of great people in the world.”