Bethesda, MD – “Crisis provides opportunities for humans to exercise character. This tragic flood brought destruction to us but also hope,” said Dr. Fred Cerise, LDH Secretary, in one of the many essays on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita found in ‘Witness to Disaster.”

‘Witness to Disaster” is a series of first-person accounts by those whose lives were touched by the storms: physician and nurse volunteers, residents, local officials and clinicians. The stories are collected in the March/April 2006 issue of Health Affairs as a special edition of the journal’s “Narrative Matters” section.

In his essay, Dr. Cerise focuses on the thousands of volunteers who came by boat and on foot to New Orleans, and those who flew to Louisiana, to provide assistance in our most desperate times.

Witness to Disaster consists of 13 essays by 15 authors. It can be accessed online at: An accompanying online supplement,, carries up-to-the-minute updates from three authors, along with an extraordinary portfolio of 24 photographs of New Orleans by one of them, some taken as recently as last month.

In addition to Dr. Cerise, other contributors include:

Volunteer Jason Block, a primary care internal medicine resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who grew up in Thibodaux and went to medical school at Tulane.

Volunteer Richard Boyte, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who cared for elderly patients in Raymond, Mississippi.

Volunteer Dana Braner, chief of the pediatric intensive care unit at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, who served as the chief medical officer of Project HOPE’s aid efforts aboard the USNS Comfort, berthed in Pascagoula. Other volunteers aboard the Comfort who contribute stories are Julie Conlin, an oncology nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and Scott Leckman, a Salt Lake City general surgeon.

Volunteer Jan Brideau, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Massachusetts General Hospital, who recounts the story of “Lydia,” a woman in her sixties who survived several days of flooding in New Orleans crouched on the top shelf of her linen closet.

Volunteer George Chuang, a Kaiser Permanente internist in Martinez, Calif., who worked with Katrina evacuees in Houston.

Karen DeSalvo, a Tulane University internist; James Moises, a Louisiana State University emergency physician; and Joseph Uddo, a general surgeon at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie who write about the daily “nine o’clock meeting” of health leaders after the storms.

Volunteer Jan Evans Patterson, chief of medical services at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in San Antonio, who worked with Katrina evacuees in Texas.

Volunteer Benjamin Springgate, an internist and pediatrician at UCLA, who returned as a volunteer to his native New Orleans and remains there today.

Volunteer Buck Taylor, director of the Gallatin Community Clinic in Bozeman, Mont., who did triage in a parking lot outside the New Orleans Convention Center.

Janis van Meerveld, a New Orleans resident who was undergoing cancer treatment when Katrina struck.

De Salvo, Springgate and van Meerveld provide March 2006 updates, and van Meerveld provides a portfolio of photographs, at

Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy.