Dorota Ruszczyk had just returned to New Orleans from fieldwork in Kenya when she learned that Hurricane Katrina was about to land. She and her fiancé stocked up on food, batteries and water, but as the storm approached, they left for Baton Rouge. Now Ruszczyk is with her family in New Haven and finishing her M.P.H. course work at Yale rather than Tulane. Memories of the days after the storm still haunt her. “You saw everyone around you with a blank stare on their face,” she said. The hurricane diverted Andrea Humphrey, M.P.H. ’05, from a doctoral program at Tulane back to Yale, where her former advisors helped her sign up for course work. Although her clothes, computer and textbooks are in New Orleans, Humphrey considers herself lucky. “It’s going to be very hard for people to get their lives back together,” she said. David Grew, who was about to enter public health school at Tulane, is taking classes at Yale. He weathered the storm with his landlord’s family in Houma, La., then spent time in Texas, including a day helping evacuees in Austin. “It had a real effect on me, in how I look at the way health care should be distributed,” said Grew.
Grew, Humphrey and Ruszczyk are among five students from Tulane who have found temporary homes at the medical school after Hurricane Katrina forced the closing of Tulane University in late August. While the public health students are in the classroom, two Tulane medical students are at Yale for clinical clerkships.
The day before Hurricane Katrina struck, fourth-year Conar Fitton left New Orleans with “three T-shirts, a pair of flip-flops and a dog.” Stephanie Malliaris, a third-year, had left a day earlier. “Most people leave for hurricanes thinking they’ll be back home in three or four days,” she said. Fitton spent two weeks at Yale in a hepatology rotation. Malliaris stayed eight weeks for a pediatrics clerkship. In September Tulane relocated its medical school to Houston. Other Tulane programs are expected to resume in January in New Orleans.