Introduction: On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the US Gulf Coast, resulting in the evacuation of >1.5 million people, including nearly 6000 physicians. This article examines the relocation patterns of physicians following the storm, determines the impact that the disaster had on their lives and practices, and identifies lessons learned.
Methods: An Internet-based survey was conducted among licensed physicians reporting addresses within Federal Emergency Management Agency–designated disaster zones in Louisiana and Mississippi. Descriptive data analysis was used to describe respondent characteristics. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to identify the factors associated with physician nonreturn to original practice. For those remaining relocated out of state, bivariate analysis with χ2 or Fisher exact test was used to determine factors associated with plans to return to original practice.
Results: A total of 312 eligible responses were collected. Among disaster zone respondents, 85.6% lived in Louisiana and 14.4% resided in Mississippi before the hurricane struck. By spring 2006, 75.6% (n = 236) of the respondents had returned to their original homes, whereas 24.4% (n = 76) remained displaced. Factors associated with nonreturn to original employment included family or general medicine practice (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.17–1.04; P = .059) and severe or complete damage to the workplace (OR 0.24, 95% CI 0.13–0.42; P < .001).
Conclusions: A sizeable proportion of physicians remain displaced after Hurricane Katrina, along with a lasting decrease in the number of physicians serving in the areas affected by the disaster. Programs designed to address identified physician needs in the aftermath of the storm may give confidence to displaced physicians to return. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2007;1:21–26)