Recovering Life and Livelihood in Waveland, Mississippi

The paths of destruction wrought by storms Katrina and Rita during the 2005 hurricane season were stunning in their impact on America’s Gulf Coast. Landscapes were dramatically altered, and thousands of lives were changed forever.

We saw the results “up close and personal” through real-time media coverage. Continuous streams of film footage and commentary kept us closely in touch with the plight of those directly effected by the hurricanes. Americans responded by opening their hearts and homes to the storm victims. Donations of money, products, and services poured forth as well, from individuals and organizations alike as we rallied to the call for action.

Through adversity, we sometimes realize more clearly than ever, that we have the capacity to surmount tremendous difficulties and, in the process, discover some of our best qualities. The challenges were huge, but Americans used ingenuity and determination to begin the process of healing and recovery. In the pages ahead, you will read excerpts from the journals of professional caregivers from the private and public sectors who volunteered their support for the relief efforts. Their stories are firsthand accounts of their observations of and responses to one of America’s worst natural disasters—and the amazing efforts of inspired and dedicated healthcare providers as they joined initiatives to aid the storm victims.

By Nature’s Hand...

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, two of the most severe storms in America’s history, reach ed the Gulf Coast on August 31 and September 26, 2005, respectively. Katrina is calculated to be the most destructive and costly natural disaster this country has ever seen. Its storm surge breached the levee system that protected New Orleans, flooding that city and its suburbs and making most areas of the city uninhabitable. The coastal regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama suffered massive damage. As the storms pushed inland, cities and towns reeled under their fierce winds and rain that disabled the services and communications vital to all.

From Katrina alone, the Red Cross estimated that relief efforts exceeded $2 billion, most of which was allocated to immediate post-disaster needs: food, shelter, emergency financial assistance, and physical and medical health services. Although it is still to early to assess the full extent of damage to the dental profession, it is clear the impact of the storms will be felt for many years to come.

An Industry Response...

Answering the request of the Mississippi Department of Health, participants in the public, private, and professional sectors partnered to dispatch “Tomorrow’s Dental Office Today!” (TDOT) to Waveland, Mississippi to help treat Gulf Coast residents in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The mobile exhibit, which is a fully functional, technology-driven dental office of the future, traveled to this devastated town of 7,100, and was set up at the local Kmart parking lot that became Waveland’s new community hub. TDOT provided care to over 620 patients during the outreach, and supplemented the ongoing relief efforts among the federal, state, and local government and nonprofit agencies.

The TDOT outreach was led by Dr. Nicholas Mosca, State Dental Director of the Mississippi Department of Health, and complemented the ongoing relief efforts at Caroline 1, the North Carolina State Medical Assistance Team based in Waveland.