In the days after Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas coast in August, the sheer scale of the storm’s destruction became clear:
- Two hospitals closed indefinitely because of flooding;
- Nearly four feet of rain dropped on Houston;
- The death toll stood at an estimated 93 people;
- Widespread flooding blanketed the coast; and
- Thousands of physicians were displaced from their homes and practices.
However, the generosity of American physicians proved to be stronger than the storm, as shown by the amount donated to the TMA Disaster Relief Fund.
The fund received generous donations from physicians and organizations across the state and around the nation, including The Physicians Foundation, the American Medical Association (AMA), the AMA Foundation, and several state medical societies. The bottom line: more than $1 million available to help physicians rebuild.
All told, the fund provided monetary gifts to 55 practices in 18 cities, including Houston, Friendswood, Beaumont, Victoria, Kingwood, Columbus, Port Arthur, and Spring. The practices employ 169 physicians and 1,304 non-physician staff members.
For each of the past six months, a special committee of the TMA Physicians Benevolent Fund (PBF) has met to review fund applications to determine assistance amounts based on need.
The committee was chaired by TMA Immediate Past President Don R. Read, MD, who called the experience “a great honor.”
“The generosity and the resilience of Texas physicians during this crisis shows that we truly are part of a community of medicine,” Dr. Read said. “Although I hope nothing of this magnitude happens again, physicians across the state know they can turn to each other, as well as the Texas Medical Association, in times of need.”
Seven other TMA member physicians and one TMA Alliance member also volunteered their time and expertise on the special committee:
- PBF Committee Chair Susan Bailey of Austin,
- TMA Past President Stephen Brotherton, MD,
- Former TEXPAC Board Chair Jerry Hunsaker, MD,
- TMA Past President Austin King, MD,
- TMA Past President Mark Kubala, MD, an AMA Distinguished Service Award winner,
- George Peterkin III, MD, and
- TMA and AMA Past President Jim Rohack, MD.
Assistance was made available for practices in FEMA-declared counties that sustained uninsured, underinsured, or nonreimbursable property damage, and did not have adequate funding to cover the damage. This included relocating or rehabilitating their medical offices, replacing equipment, rebuilding patient records, and paying temporary operating expenses, including rent for temporary offices.
“It is difficult to explain the emotional roller coaster ride that the people in our clinic experienced during and after the flood,” Anastasia L. Gentles, MD, chief medical officer and co-founder of NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care clinic in Humble, wrote in a thank you note to Dr. Read’s committee. “Your kindness and generosity in assisting us in our road to recovery is so much appreciated.”
This story has been updated to say that funds have been provided to 55 practices that employ 169 physicians and 1,304 non-physician staff members.