Penn State student serves on medical team during Hurricane Irma

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State student Nicole Denham helped provide medical support to hundreds of sheltered residents during Hurricane Irma as part of an interdisciplinary team that supplemented an existing emergency management response.

As members of the Georgia East Metro Medical Reserve Corps, Denham, a registered nurse who is earning her master’s degree in health administration through Penn State World Campus, and her business partner, Bonnie Matthews, also a registered nurse, served at the Columbus Civic Center in Columbus, Georgia, where more than 600 residents sought shelter through the September hurricane.

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is a national network of volunteers, organized locally to improve the health and safety of their communities. The MRC network has more than 900 units throughout the United States and works closely with public health departments, emergency managers and homeland security to ensure the safety of the public.  

At the Columbus Civic Center shelter, Denham and Matthews, principal clinical consultants at Clinical Operations Renewal, took on leadership roles, helping to establish additional structure around communication, logistics and clinic procedures.

Over four days, processes were implemented for triage, intake, assessment and treatment for 350 patients. The team also worked with local organizations to set up a mobile pharmacy, create intake and discharge procedures and create additional processes to meet the growing needs of the patients. Additionally, there were zero reports of outbreaks of communicable diseases at the shelter.

As a testament to the team’s success, Denham and Matthews were invited to participate in a debrief about their experience at the state level and to document their model of success for mass sheltering. They have also been invited to work with the Georgia Department of Public Health in solidifying a model for initial response, planning needs and expectations of support teams.

“We went because we believe in servant leadership,” Denham said. “We were blessed to be part of the team and look forward to implementing lasting change.”

Matthews added, “As health care providers it is our responsibility to use our gifts to serve the community.”

The Master of Health Administration (MHA) program in the College of Health and Human Development is a 16-course, 49-credit, 28-month program that includes a weeklong intensive residency on the University Park campus where students work on capstone projects with the faculty and network with leaders in the health care industry. Denham is one of 27 adult learners who make up the online MHA cohort.

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Last Updated October 24, 2017