Tulane’s traveling med school

What happens to a medical school when a massive hurricane dumps 6 feet of water into ground floor classrooms just 3 weeks after the start of school? If it’s Tulane Medical School in New Orleans, it gets out of town and sets up shop in Houston.

But just when classes were about to restart after Hurricane Katrina’s unruly visit, Hurricane Rita began bearing down on Tulane’s new home away from home, notes Ian Taylor, the school’s dean. Luckily, Rita left Houston little damaged, so Tulane’s 620 students finally resumed their studies on Oct. 3.

This fall, the students will attend courses taught by Tulane faculty in classrooms being lent to the school by four Houston medical schools that have come to be known collectively as the Alliance of South Texas Health Science. The alliance coalesced within 10 days after Katrina’s landfall specifically to offer the Tulane students and faculty a place to continue their work.

Members of the Houston medical community are even opening their homes to Tulane’s exiles. “We wanted to show that we’re just one big community,” explains William Brinkley, senior vice president of one alliance member, the Baylor College of Medicine.

The Houston hosts also understand some of what their Tulane colleagues are experiencing. In 2001, a tropical storm left Baylor’s medical center underwater and out of commission for 2 months.

Taylor said that his university hopes to reopen in New Orleans by Jan. 1.

Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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