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ASPPH Member Response to Hurricane Harvey

Many of our members are already involved in the Hurricane Henry response. Below is a list of activities. We will provide updates as they become available.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Leonard Marcus, lecturer on public health practice at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and founding co-director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (NPLI) at Harvard University, is at the American Red Cross Disaster Response Headquarters in Fairfax, VA. He is observing and supporting Red Cross leadership responding to the hurricane relief efforts as part of NPLI’s long-term engagement with Red Cross leadership, both in the field and at the national level. The NPLI was established in 2003 as a collaborative effort of Harvard and Harvard Kennedy School. It was developed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Public Health

Dean Smith and LSU have been in touch with schools of public health and collaborators in the affected area to offer assistance and support. Most have responded unsure of what they will need at this time, as they are still determining what the direct effects are and what the long term effects will be. LSU is fully aware of what it means to lose everything and often it is a few days before you can begin to sort it all out. The faculty and staff at LSU remembers living through Katrina (the 12 year anniversary was this week) and fully understand what it is like firsthand.

Rutgers School of Public Health

The Rutgers School of Public Health is thinking of those who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The destruction and devastation caused by the hurricane highlights the importance of developing and maintaining local resources to train volunteers and responders to rapidly assess and control the situation. The Rutgers School of Public Health, Office of Public Health Practice (OPHP) is prepared to offer assistance based on what we have learned from Superstorm Sandy. OPHP has training available for responders, homeowners, and others who will be called upon to clean-up the devastation caused by the storm.

Office of Public Health Practice.

Office of Public Health Practice – Hurricane Sandy Resources.

Texas A&M School of Public Health

Following Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Jennifer Horney, interim department head and associate professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, will be working with community partners across the region to access the public health impacts of exposure to contaminated floodwaters.

Partnering with the Texas A&M Superfund Research Center, for which Dr. Horney leads the community engagement core, EpiAssist students will be in Houston conducting environmental sampling over the next several weeks. Soil and water samples will be collected in areas identified by community residents as locations for ponding and pooling of debris, as well as in areas adjacent to industrial facilities along the Houston Ship Channel. Samples will be analyzed at Texas A&M and results will be shared with local and state partners. Post-disaster data will also be compared with pilot data from an environmental vulnerability study conducted by Dr. Horney during Spring 2017 in the Manchester neighborhood of East Houston. EpiAssist students worked with community groups to sample air, water, soil, and dust from the homes of residents of the environmental justice neighborhood.

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s flooding, Dean Pierre Buekens of Tulane reached out to colleagues in Houston, including those at the University of Texas School of Public Health and the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. While at this time both institutions seem to have escaped the worst of the devastating floods, Dean Buekens extended an offer to host them and their team at Tulane if needed.

Similarly, Dr. Maureen Lichtveld, Freeport McMoRan Chair of Environmental Policy, works with the Health Disparities, Education, Awareness, Research & Training (HDEART) Consortium, a consortium of schools and universities throughout the Gulf Coast, and has been in contact with colleagues in Southeast Texas with offers of support as well as an open invitation to temporarily relocate to Tulane if needed.

Even a dozen years later, Tulane remains thankful for the similar demonstrations of support the school received in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The school’s students were welcomed at ASPPH schools across the U.S. These students were able to continue their studies for the Fall 2005 semester instead of losing an entire semester of academic progress. Administrative functions of the school temporarily relocated to the University of Texas and faculty were welcomed there and elsewhere across the country.

University of Georgia College of Public Health

Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah DeYoung and Assistant Research Scientist Tawny Waltz from the Institute for Disaster Management in the University of Georgia College of Public Health deployed for quick response fieldwork one week after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. They collected social science data in the Dallas area on evacuation decision-making, sheltering, relief operations, and companion animals. They were accompanied by Fiona Lang-Sharpe, a lactation consultant and professional doula from Canada, who works with Dr. DeYoung in infant and young child feeding in emergencies (IYCF-E) outreach and advocacy for Safely Fed USA.

University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health

Dr. Samuel Dorevitch, associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the UIC, spoke to about the numerous health hazards associated with catastrophic flooding in Houston. Watch the video.

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Several members of the UNMC College of Public Health Student Response Team and their faculty advisor, Dr. Sharon Medcalf responded to the Harvey Response on the Global Standby Task Force (STF) by social media in a disaster. The STF was activated for Hurricane Harvey on Sunday, 9/27 helping geo-map distress calls posted by victims on social media platforms. This information gets transferred to the Urban Search and Rescue Teams and the U.S. Coast Guard, then they respond to trapped victims, or hazardous spills. 

The Assistant Director, Elayne Saejung, of UNMC College of Public Health’s Center for Preparedness Education was asked to deploy with what’s called a Field Innovation Team. This team deploys to help brainstorm non-traditional strategies for responding and recovering in a disaster. In the case of Hurricane Harvey, Mass Care shelter operations are already overwhelmed. Elayne will be part of a team traveling to the area to address this issue using a process that generates innovative solutions. Her team is partnered with a local public health department and FEMA.

Ms. Kara Stephens, a consultant for UNMC College of Public Health, is a volunteer Health Education Coordinator for the Denton County, TX Medical Reserve Corps. Ms. Stephens supported the Harvey Response by staffing Mega Shelter operations at the Dallas Convention Center 8/29-9/1.

University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health

As was true for people across the United States and around the world, our Gillings School of Global Public Health community expectantly followed the news about Hurricane Harvey and its impact on the people of Texas and Louisiana. Our thoughts – and donations – are with the people of Houston and the surrounding areas, who have lost so much and have such a long recovery period ahead.

Dean Barbara K. Rimer shared her thoughts in her blog, Monday Morning, in an entry titled “Natural disasters exert unnatural impact.” For many, she notes, “the immediate crisis will turn into a much longer period of recovery that will have economic, emotional, mental and physical health consequences. The vulnerable always suffer most after a natural disaster.” As we did after Hurricane Katrina for students and faculty members at Tulane and elsewhere, the School’s leadership reached out to the University of Texas at Houston’s School of Public Health to offer help to those who are displaced.

Because of the number of people who want to find ways to help, the Gillings School will hold an all-School meeting on September 6 to brainstorm about ways we can work with The University of North Carolina and other entities to provide support and relief for the communities devastated by the storm and its aftermath. Many people in our School community have family and friends who live in Texas and Louisiana. We also will consider how to best provide support to them – and aid to their immediate families.

Volunteer groups from UNC have made repeated trips in the past to help clean up and rebuild communities diminished by hurricanes Katrina, Matthew and many others. We will provide updates when these groups are ready and able to travel to communities hit by Harvey.

University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health

The North Texas, Public Health Student Government Association and student organizations are coordinating efforts to gather donations of toiletries, which began on Monday. A blood drive is also planned on campus for September, and the university is working with students and employees who may have family members impacted, to connect them with support resources.

University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health

As Gamecocks, South Carolina stands with those affected by Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, knowing all too well the hardship of historic flooding. In conjunction with the Columbia mayor’s office, City Council and a citywide relief effort, the University of South Carolina and Gamecock Athletics will be collecting items to send to the hurricane victims in Texas. The following donations will be accepted:

Students, faculty, staff and members of the community can drop off donations at four campus locations from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5 and Wednesday, Sept. 6:

My Carolina Alumni Center

Rice Athletics Center

School of Law

Visitor Center

Greene Street in front of the Russell House will be an additional drop-off location on Wednesday only from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Additionally, campus residents can drop off donations in their residence halls beginning Friday, Sept. 1.

Monetary donations are also encouraged and can be contributed online through the United Way, the American Red Cross and the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. The Carolinian Creed calls us to demonstrate concern for others, and we are ready to serve.

Students, sign up to volunteer for the donation drive with our online volunteer form.

For more information about the drive, contact Ambra Yarbrough Hiott at For media inquiries, contact Dana D’Haeseleer at or 803-777-3691.

University of South Florida College of Public Health

South Florida has a number of alumni responding to Hurricane Harvey in Texas:

University of Texas School of Public Health

Dr. Robert “Safety Bob” Emery, Dr. Scott Patlovich, and Mr. Bryan Evans and other members of UTHealth’s Safety, Health, Environment and Risk Management team are among the first responders who manage every emergency and threat on UTHealth’s campus in Houston.

In preparation for and the duration of Hurricane Harvey’s wrath, Dr. Patlovich, director of Environmental Health and Safety, served as the lead organizer for communications amongst university leadership, continuously gathering critical information to help inform decision making.

After the storm, Emery – who is vice president of Safety, Health, Environment and Risk Management for UTHealth, as well as a faculty member and an alumnus of UTHealth School of Public Health – hiked seven miles to campus because the roads were impassable. His journey to access the safety of the UTHealth campus facilities included a brief ride on a City of Houston Police MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. At one point, a passerby in a kayak even offered to tow Emery’s backpack for a while.

Meanwhile, Evans coordinated disaster response teams to assist with cleanup and recovery efforts, all while cleaning up from storm damage at his own home.

On Wednesday, August 30, Dr. Eric Boerwinkle, dean of UTHealth School of Public Health, wrote to the school’s six campuses:

“This has been a week of extremes. New student orientation is always an exciting time, and the service day was nothing short of inspiring,” wrote Dean Boerwinkle. “On the opposite end of the spectrum, the school, the university and Texas have been adversely affected by the most catastrophic natural disaster in the history of the United States. Although our SPH campuses were largely spared from damage, it is clear that a significant proportion of our students, faculty, and staff have been impacted in some way by the storm at home, and many have experienced significant trauma from these events.”

He emphasized that the school would be assessing faculty, staff, and student concerns to determine personal impacts that the storm exerted on the UTHealth community and that school leadership has been in contact with local agencies to determine public health needs and opportunities and whether “we can deploy the talent, enthusiasm, and knowledge of our students, faculty, and staff in a coordinated fashion.”

“I would like to thank the many who have reached out to offer support and assistance, including our esteemed alumni,” said Dean Boerwinkle. “We face some challenging times ahead, but collectively we will work together to fulfill our mission to improve the health of the people of Texas, the nation and the world. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with all who have suffered loss during this disaster. It is in the most difficult times when true character is revealed.”

Many others from the UTHealth School of Public Health community have been involved in relief efforts throughout Texas and their stories will emerge once they have time to share them.

University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

The Emergency Law Inventory (ELI) for volunteers, developed by the Pittsburgh is an informatics tool that connects emergency workers with local and national laws allowing them to make informed and safe decisions, increasing a team’s ability to succeed.

Introductory video.
More information.