Anyone displaced by Katrina is eligible to participate in the survey. They do not have to be patients of the NMMC Family Medicine Residency Center. Participants must be over the age of 18 and had to reside in a county or parish declared a disaster area.

To obtain a survey or request more information, contact A.K. Aguirre at 397-9236

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Six months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, there are still many questions as people work to put their lives back together.

A Tulane graduate student with Tupelo ties and the North Mississippi Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Center have added their own sets of questions: How did Hurricane Katrina effect the health of the people who were forced to evacuate?

"We're trying to evaluate people's health before and after," using a survey that looks at eight different health perspectives, said Tulane public health graduate student A.K. Aguirre, a Tupelo High School graduate.

The results of the research project could help define the kinds of health care that needs to be offered in the wake of a natural disaster with a large population of evacuees.

"There's really nothing out there about the long term health effects," in medical literature, said Dr. Michael O'Dell, residency center director and a principal investigator with Aguirre.

Although many of the survey participants so far have been patients at the residency center, it is not a requirement for the study.

"Anyone displaced by Katrina," is eligible to participate as long as they are 18 years old or older, Aguirre said.

The survey is based on the participants' responses, Aguirre said. "We're not researching medical records," she said.

Although the data has not been analyzed yet, O'Dell said he has seen significant impacts on patient's health from the storm, but he has also seen great strength.

"We've been impressed by the resiliency of the people who evacuated," O'Dell said.

Aguirre herself had to evacuate in the face of Katrina and had her plans for a December graduation scuttled.

"I lacked one class," to complete her masters degree, she said. The study of the health of Katrina evacuees has become her research project to complete her course requirements.

Aguirre hopes to finish gathering surveys by the end of February or early March so she can begin the data analysis and reporting.

Even though Aguirre's set to graduate in May, she'll be in Tupelo at least a little longer. She's agreed to coach the Tupelo swim team through August.

To request a survey, contact Aguirre at 397-9236

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