Eleven providers from the University of Rochester Medical Center departed Tuesday morning for Puerto Rico, deploying as part of a larger Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) team that will spend two weeks on the hurricane-ravaged island that is still largely without power and adequate supplies five weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall there.
The URMC staff members, from Highland Hospital, Strong Memorial Hospital and Strong West, consist of seven registered nurses, two nurse practitioners, one licensed practical nurse, and one physician:
- Wendy Allen-Thompson, R.N., B.S.N., Strong West Emergency
- Erin Barone, R.N., ASPN II, West 5, Highland Hospital
- Ann Marie “Corky” Dailey, R.N., Strong West Emergency
- Chelsea E. Davis, R.N., ASPN II, Labor and Delivery, Highland Hospital
- Jeanine DiBerardinis, R.N., ASPN III, Labor and Delivery and Same Day Surgery, Highland Hospital
- Devon Phelan-Patton, R.N., ASPN II, Emergency Department, Highland Hospital
- Taina Ramos, L.P.N., UR Medicine Primary Care’s East Ridge Family Medicine
- Luis A. Rosario-McCabe, D.N.P., R.N., UR Medicine Women’s Health Practice, assistant professor of Clinical Nursing, UR School of Nursing
- Aida L. Santiago, N.P., Department of Neurology
- Neil S. Seligman, M.D., assistant professor, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UR School of Medicine and Dentistry
- Emily J. Winters, R.N., Nursing Professional Development, Highland Hospital.
Team members will join about 70 other physicians and nurses from across New York state, and will be serving in roles that include assisting with emergency operations and health care planning at medical sites, and hands-on patient care.
“The outpouring of generosity from our medical center to help Puerto Rico recover from last month’s hurricane can make us all proud,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., URMC CEO. “I applaud the 11 medical professionals who will volunteer their time and talent in Puerto Rico over the next two weeks, those who are taking on extra work here to support the volunteer effort, and thousands more who have donated in other ways to support hurricane victims. Together they embody an institution that is dedicated to caring for people whenever and wherever the need arises.”
For Wendy Allen-Thompson, who is certified in emergency nursing and numerous other advanced life support specialties, this is the first time she is participating in a relief effort far from home. Yet she sees it as just an extension of her 22-year career in nursing and her strong belief in serving people, whatever the circumstances.
“It is a privilege to utilize my skills in this meaningful way,” said Allen-Thompson, manager of Strong West Emergency, as well as a flight nurse with Mercy Flight of Western New York and a member of the Alabama Volunteer Fire Department in Genesee County. “Nothing feels better than giving of one's self in service to others, to be there in their darkest hours sharing light and hope. And it is great to work for an institution that appreciates all that each of its employees has to offer and is willing to share those talents in a humanitarian way for a greater purpose.”
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to go down and help the people of Puerto Rico when they need it most,” said Emily Winters, nursing professional development specialist for the Department of Education at Highland Hospital. “They could be without electricity or clean water for months so providing proper medical care will be crucial.”
HANYS is managing all travel logistics related to the trip, while Environmental Health and Safety Emergency Management is handing all the coordination and logistics to facilitate the mission, according to Mark Cavanaugh, director of UR EH&S.
Many details about the conditions the team will face over the next two weeks have come from the experiences of the initial group that deployed Oct. 12 and returns home Thursday. The state has attempted to schedule a two-day overlap of the first and second teams to provide time for sharing of information.
URMC team members have been told there is no electricity in most areas, so generator power is being used; limited supplies; and temperatures are exceeding 100 degrees. Work location, roles and responsibilities in Puerto Rico are undetermined as the URMC team prepares to leave, and HANYS could not say for certain if the team that deployed this week will be doing identical or similar work as the first, or if they will be stationed in the same five locations.
The situation in Puerto Rico is very fluid and needs change hour by hour, Cavanaugh said, and our providers are prepared for the challenges.
“The university is grateful for the number of volunteers who have raised their hands and are willing to temporarily halt their regular responsibilities – both professional and personal – to help those in need in Puerto Rico,” Cavanaugh said.
There have been no definitive discussions with the state regarding future deployments but there are about 40 additional URMC providers who are interested in participating in the effort, if they are called upon.
Neil Seligman volunteered as part of disaster relief efforts in Haiti in 2007. His experience on that Caribbean island prompted him to respond now to HANYS’ call for assistance for Puerto Rico.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since volunteering in Haiti during residency,” Seligman said. “It is medicine in its purest form.”