After Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean, two Carolinas HealthCare System physicians joined the relief efforts as volunteers of Team Rubicon.

News | 4 years ago

Physicians Respond to Hurricane Maria's Devastation in the Caribbean

After Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean, two Carolinas HealthCare System physicians joined the relief efforts as volunteers of Team Rubicon.

In September, Hurricane Maria – a Category 5 hurricane – made landfall in the Caribbean. In a matter of days, the lives of millions were impacted. Citizens across the islands were left without electricity, medical resources and even drinkable water.

Puerto Rico and Dominica found themselves in a state of crisis. And two of Carolinas HealthCare System’s own physicians stepped up to provide medical assistance. Packing their bags with the necessary supplies, medications and everything they needed to self-sustain for two weeks, they joined the relief efforts as volunteers of Team Rubicon – a nonprofit organization providing assistance to those affected by disasters.

Bringing Relief to Puerto Rico

Sandy Craig, MD, FACEP

When Sandy Craig, MD, FACEP, an emergency medical physician with Carolinas HealthCare System, arrived in Puerto Rico with fellow Team Rubicon volunteers, they were met by several other relief workers – and little information. 

“Were hospitals open? Did they have power? Water? Staff? No one knew,” explains Dr. Craig.

After visiting most of the island’s hospitals, Dr. Craig and Team Rubicon helped the local relief efforts determine the greatest medical needs – including generators and diesel fuels for hospitals. Although hospitals were open, they were running on diesel generators and nearing the end of their fuel supply. It was getting impossible to sustain services like dialysis and operating room procedures – which require more electrical power than others.

By identifying and alerting local relief workers of the need for consistent delivery of diesel fuel and additional generators, Dr. Craig and Team Rubicon were able to make a big difference in their short time on the island.

“When we left, there were diesel fuel trucks seen traveling the highways, delivering fuel to various locations – this was something we didn’t see when we arrived,” says Dr. Craig, adding that by the time they left, hospitals were expected to receive diesel every two days.

Disaster Response in Dominica

David Callaway, MD, MPA,

While Dr. Craig provided relief to Puerto Rico, David Callaway, MD, MPA, an emergency medicine physician with Carolinas HealthCare System and chief medical officer of Team Rubicon, was deployed to the small island of Dominica, which suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Maria.

As Dr. Callaway and the Team Rubicon crew flew into the island, they got an aerial glimpse of the devastation.

“We could see the roofless houses, the piles of cars, power lines blocking roads and the mudslides,” recalls Dr. Callaway, who served as a United States Marine Corps physician before joining Carolinas HealthCare System. “People were digging out of the debris. Stunned or focused, not a one even looked up at the convoy of military helicopters flying overhead.”

Just as Dr. Craig had observed in Puerto Rico, Dr. Callaway noted significant needs – and a particular need for medical resources, as those with chronic illness had lost access to the necessary medications.

With help and support from his Carolinas HealthCare System teammates in the US – as well as with financial assistance from Team Rubicon – many of the necessary medications and supplies were sent to the disaster response in a matter of days. This included everything from antibiotics to respiratory medicines to wound care, as well as liquid solutions for children.

“Without the logistics support of Carolinas HealthCare System, we would not have been able to send the required medications and supplies as quickly and professionally as we did that week," says Erin Noste, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Carolinas HealthCare System and the deputy medical director for Team Rubicon who helped coordinate the speedy delivery of medications to Dominica.

Before leaving Dominica, Dr. Callaway and Team Rubicon also provided the island’s local team with a standardized, electronic solution to help them track resources and bridge communication gaps.

Two Service-Minded Organizations, Better Together

Though both doctors have returned from their time in the Caribbean, their work with Team Rubicon is far from over.

“For me, it’s an honor to play a role in helping unite the two service-minded organizations and have a true impact on our communities and our nation,” says Dr. Calloway. For Dr. Craig’s part, she hopes to develop a more prolonged operation in Puerto Rico.

“Team Rubicon is a brilliant concept,” says Dr. Craig. “When paired with nursing and physician skill sets, Team Rubicon can provide a comprehensive solution to all aspects of disaster response.”

Carolinas HealthCare System has been a partner of Team Rubicon since 2015. Learn more about this partnership here