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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 10, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 17
Hopkins Joins in Tsunami Relief Efforts

Faculty, staff and alumni offer expertise here and in South Asia

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In an immediate and substantial manner, numerous Johns Hopkins affiliates have come to the aid of survivors of the South Asian tsunami that to date has claimed the lives of more than 140,000 people. In Indonesia alone, roughly 500,000 survivors have been left homeless, and it's projected that 5 million people in a dozen countries will ultimately be impacted by the natural disaster that struck on Dec. 26.

In a broadcast message last week, President William R. Brody outlined the university's tsunami response and the importance of Johns Hopkins employees doing what they could for survivors.

"The Indian Ocean tsunami may well be the most destructive natural catastrophe of our lifetimes. The toll is staggering, not only in fatalities but also in injury, homelessness, infrastructure damage and disruption to developing societies that already were in some ways far more fragile than our own. The potential is also immense for additional human misery, caused not directly by flood waters but by illness, starvation and lack of safe drinking water," Brody said. "Given the vast scope of the disaster, I have been pleased, though not surprised, to learn that a number of us at Johns Hopkins are responding with assistance, expertise and generous financial support."

Three Emergency Department nurses from Bayview Medical Center, Brian Wahl, Emily Seay and Audrey Rutkowski, departed last week for a month-long relief mission that will take them first to Jakarta and then to remote regions of Indonesia. This group will join a team led by Alex Vu, an instructor of Emergency Medicine at the School of Medicine, who left for Indonesia on Jan. 4 to provide direct medical relief to disaster victims and assist with establishing a surveillance system to monitor infectious disease and injuries resulting from the disaster.

A group of School of Medicine faculty of Sri Lankan descent is preparing to go to Sri Lanka as part of an International Medical Health Organization team. Among those coordinating the program are Arjun Chanmugam, the residency program director in Emergency Medicine, Ananda Kumar of the Radiology Department and Ruben Amarasingham of Internal Medicine. Faculty leading the group's efforts are Gregg Greenough and Chayan Dey. Ken Grant and Bob Feroli of JHHS are assisting this team. Johns Hopkins Medicine will contribute drugs and medical supplies to the team's mission.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health is working on several fronts to respond to the tsunami disaster. CIEDRS — the school's Center for International Emergency, Disaster and Refugee Studies — has personnel working on relief efforts in Indonesia, is deploying a team of emergency physicians and nurses to work with the International Rescue Committee, is assisting Project HOPE in planning its response efforts and is coordinating with other relief agencies on the ground to explore additional means of assistance. In the past, the school has trained 170 public health officials from South Asia in a disaster management course. One such course was completed just months ago.

As part of its core mission, CIEDRS, a cooperative academic program conducted by SOM's Department of Emergency Medicine and SPH's Department of International Health, provides technical assistance to NGOs, United Nations agencies and local governments in the wake of both human-generated and natural disasters. In that context, the center is sending faculty member Earl Wall and master of public health student Brian Crawford to assist in public health assessments in Aceh, Indonesia.

Gilbert Burnham, director of CIEDRS, said that it's vital that the response to the disaster be both swift and sustained.

"The current crisis can make people forget that there is a long and undramatic rebuilding process in the years ahead. This is when the big money will need to continue to flow," said Burnham, an associate professor of international health. "But based on previous disasters, the world's attention will soon shift to other dramas, and the rebuilding process will struggle along not completely getting done, and without the big changes which disaster rebuilding makes possible."

Many School of Public Health faculty, alumni and students were in the countries swept by the tsunamis and have remained there to aid survivors. As of press time, no Johns Hopkins affiliates were known to have been killed or injured.

In a Dec. 30 letter to school colleagues, School of Public Health Dean Alfred Sommer voiced how important it is for an institution dedicated to global health to help mitigate the tsunami's impact on human lives.

"We know that the faculty, alumni and students of the School of Public Health who are currently in these countries are doing their utmost to aid survivors; prevent outbreaks of malaria, meningitis, dengue fever and diarrheal diseases; and help provide long-term solutions to the many challenges to be faced in the coming months," Sommer said.

JHPIEGO, a JHU-affiliated international health organization, has personnel who are currently helping reestablish health care services in affected regions, and members of its staff are among the aid workers deployed by the Indonesian government to assess conditions in the battered Aceh Province.

Johns Hopkins alumni are also deeply involved in the relief effort, including Jose Ravano, a SAIS and SPH graduate who is being sent to coordinate CARE's relief efforts in Sri Lanka, and Sunil Solomon, a recent School of Public Health alum who is coordinating the work of School of Public Health researchers who have been in Chennai, India, focused on the development of HIV/AIDS prevention. The group will conduct a situational assessment of the needs of three Chennai communities in the wake of the disaster. They already have provided medical care, clothing, essential household supplies, clean water and food to those in the most need. In addition, the group is working to raise funds in order to provide shelter for and help re-equip each family who has experienced total loss.

Closer to home, faculty from SAIS, Engineering, Public Health and other divisions have been working with the news media to help the public better understand the disaster and its implications.

At SAIS, fund-raising efforts have been begun by both the Southeast Asia Studies program, which will support relief efforts in Thailand and Indonesia, and the South Asia Studies program, which will direct funds to the fisherman community in Sri Lanka. To date, the two groups have raised more than $5,000.


Important Tsunami Info

In an effort to trade information and coordinate Johns Hopkins' relief efforts, a message board has been created at

The university urges anyone with a tsunami response initiative under way to post information there.

The university would like to hear from any student, faculty member or staff member who has been affected so it can ensure that Johns Hopkins is offering appropriate support at this difficult time. If you are affected, please send an e-mail to with your name, position, divisional affiliation, contact information and the loss you have experienced; it will be forwarded to appropriate university staff.

For those who are looking to offer financial support, the School of Public Health has compiled a list of relief agencies, available at:


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