September 12, 2006
In an intimate ceremony recently, the departments of family medicine at Tulane University and Louisiana State University, and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recognized seven area physicians for their continued work and efforts to provide patient care in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The AAFP President's Challenge Fund awards were established by the academy to provide some financial support to family physicians who had uninsured losses resulting from Hurricane Katrina and continued to work or volunteer at clinics after the storm.
"We rely on volunteer community physicians to help train our medical students, and hence our future doctors, in their community practices," said Richard Streiffer, chair of the family medicine department at Tulane.
"We know there are many more out there whose practices were hurt by Hurricane Katrina than we can recognize today."
One of the goals of the awards was to provide support--albeit small--to physicians who had been helpful to Tulane and Louisiana State in the past by rotating medical students through their practices.
"You are all heroes to us," said Larry Fields, AAFP president. "You had a rendezvous you had to keep that no one could have predicted and we're very proud of you. It makes me humble to be president of this academy at this time. You have all done so much with so little for so long, and hopefully that time is coming to an end."
The money for the funds, which were also given to physicians on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, came from donations by family practitioners around the country.
Among the recipients were Tulane physician Ravi Vadlamudi, who accepted on behalf of the Common Ground Health Clinic for which he serves as volunteer medical director, and Renee Singleton, who lost her practice on Broad Street to eight feet of flood water.
After the hurricane, Singleton worked in the disaster recovery centers set up by FEMA, providing care to recovery workers in New Orleans. She also worked at the morgue in St. Gabriel, La.
"To me, New Orleans is a canary, showing us how broken our healthcare system really is," says Vadlamudi, who adds that he now sees many middle-aged patients who lost their health insurance and jobs as well as everything else to the hurricane.
"I hope our country wakes up to the national healthcare crisis."
Other recipients were physicians Brian Bertucci of Chalmette, La.; Alix Bouchette of Gretna, La.; Robert T. Kenny of the mid-city area of New Orleans; Cuong Le of Chalmette and New Orleans East; Bong Mui of Chalmette and New Orleans East; and William Ross of Moss Point, Miss.
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