UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO / Spring 2006
[aftermath]
Eye of the Storm
by Kelly Knufken

[before]

KIMBERLY BOSWELL (B.A.) lives in New Orleans, and is finishing up her first year at Tulane Medical School. She says she is enjoying the South, the culture and the food and is looking forward to her career, possibly as a trauma surgeon. She expects to graduate in May 2008, and hopes to move back to California.

[after]

KIMBERLY BOSWELL (B.A.) is a second-year medical student at Tulane Medical School, though she attends classes at Baylor University in Houston, due to an arrangement between the schools after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans. She still hopes to graduate in May 2008.

Of course there’s more to Kimberly Boswell’s revised Class Note than the broad brush strokes in the captions below the picture. When Hurricane Katrina struck at the end of August, she was three weeks into her second year of medical school, and was winding down with fellow students from their first set of exams. She and her friends evacuated to Houston on Sunday, Aug. 28, the day before the hurricane made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi. A few days afterward, the group went to Baton Rouge, where they put their nascent medical training to the ultimate test.

“I was in essentially a M.A.S.H. unit — that’s what it felt like and looked like,” she says, describing the makeshift medical facility set up in the basketball arena at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. “We were kind of doing everything — drawing blood, starting IVs and working with physicians to fill prescriptions.”

She and her classmates focused on getting patients stable enough to move to a shelter and helping to determine which ones needed hospitalization or dialysis. They even helped people make contact with missing family members, facilitating some reunions in those chaotic times when phone service was hard to come by.

After evacuating, she found out that her condo, about a mile from the Superdome, wasn’t damaged in the hurricane.

But she didn’t come through unscathed — looters made off with some of her belongings.

Boswell restarted her studies as a Tulane student with Tulane professors at Baylor University. She and her fellow students have a month to make up during the school year, and expect to do so by working through both Mardi Gras and Spring Break.

“The Tulane administration has been incredible,” she says. “They’ve established a place for all of us to go together. On top of that, they’ve found a lot of housing for students now in need of financial assistance.”

Boswell is just beginning to be able to put the experience she’s been through into context.

“It’s such a massive catastrophe,” she says, looking back. “It’s hard to fathom, even after being intimately involved with it. We learned a lot. It was probably some of the best experience we will ever have.”

And if you’d like proof that inspiration can be found in the most unlikely situations, look no further.

“I will always go to disaster situations now to help,” she says with conviction. “Just seeing how desperate they were even for first-year medical students who really don’t know that much, it was just incredible.”