The Greatest Need

"We needed to be where our patients were, so we packed up what we could salvage and
followed our patients." —Michael Andry, EXCELth Community Health Center, 2006

Aerial view of flooded New Orleans streets
Flooding in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 2005
Courtesy AP Photo/NOAA

In the summer of 2005 Hurricane Katrina swept across the southern United States, causing extensive damage as far as one hundred miles from the center of the storm. The devastation created a health care crisis for the Gulf Region. As well as injuries caused during this catastrophic event, many poor residents who had been unable to evacuate were also dealing with long-term health problems.

In the days afterwards, the very young, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those with chronic illnesses were particularly at risk. Some had lost their medicines when they were forced to flee. Others were unable to continue ongoing treatment at area hospitals. Residents relied on disaster response teams from other states and community health centers for help. Medical staff and volunteers set up temporary clinics wherever they could.

Patients rest on cots and in wheelchairs in airport terminal Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, New Orleans, 2005
CCourtesy DMAT San Diego CA-4
In New Orleans, the Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) from San Diego, led by Dr. Irving Jacoby, set up a temporary clinic in the city's airport. The staff provided emergency medical services and prepared people for evacuation.
Luggage cars transport patients to helicopters waiting on airport runway Moving patients onto the airport runway, New Orleans, 2005
Courtesy DMAT San Diego CA-4
Ruined medical records and office equipment Patient medical records damaged by the storm, New Orleans, 2005
Courtesy EXCELth, Inc.
Many of the region's community health centers, which provide free health care to the uninsured, were damaged by the storm. Clinic staff traveled to evacuation centers and temporary accommodations to care for the injured and deliver vital medicines.
Stack of damaged computers, monitors, and printers Health center office equipment destroyed by flooding, New Orleans, 2005
Courtesy Coastal Family Health Center
Patients on cots in airport terminal Patients waiting for evacuation by Medevac helicopter, New Orleans, 2005
Courtesy DMAT San Diego CA-4
Helicopter evacuates patients at airport runway A helicopter evacuation, New Orleans, 2005
Courtesy DMAT San Diego CA-4
On September 3 and 4, more than ten thousand people were airlifted out of New Orleans. Many were taken to hospitals that had not been affected by the hurricane to receive additional treatment.
Damaged reception area, including computer, records, and furniture Reception area, EXCELth Community Health Center, New Orleans, 2005
Courtesy EXCELth, Inc.

Under One Roof

"We're providing services to people, thousands of people each year, who otherwise would not receive the care that they need." —Aaron Shirley, Jackson Medical Mall Foundation, 2007

Front entrance of Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center
Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center, Jackson, Mississippi, 2007

The Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center was launched in 1997 in an abandoned shopping center, gathering the full range of medical services under one roof. The facility provides quality care for people without health insurance and has helped revitalize the area.

Dr. Aaron Shirley stands outside entrance to Jackson Medical Mall children's clinic Dr. Aaron Shirley, chairman of the board of the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation, 2007
The Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center serves patients from all eighty-two counties in the state of Mississippi. Patients can receive basic medical care including ophthalmology and dentistry as well as treatment for long-term health issues.
There is a bank and a pharmacy on-site, and a meeting room that members of the community regularly reserve for special events. Dr. Aaron Shirley describes the center as a "one-stop shop" because of the wide range of services available.
Patient receives eye exam A patient receiving an eye exam, Jackson, Mississippi, 2007
Jackson Medical Mall staff hands a prescription to patient Filling a prescription, Jackson, Mississippi, 2007


Dr. Aaron Shirley shares his view of health care.