Dr. Evangeline Franklin ’76
“The City of New Orleans: In Disaster and Recovery.”
by Kim Hendler, Executive Director
Proudly wearing a black Princeton sweatshirt stained dramatically by the flooding to her home during Hurricane Katrina and her class of 1976 baseball cap, Dr. Evangeline Franklin ’76, MD, MPH, Director, Clinical Services & Employee Health and Emergency Preparedness Manager for the City of New Orleans, shared her harrowing experience as a victim of Katrina with students and alumni on Friday, February 22, 2008.
Dr. Franklin began by surveying the room to hear students’ hometowns and raised awareness about danger preparedness in each location, making the point that the entire country needs to be better prepared for major disasters. She told the room she hoped she would inspire in Princeton students an interest in disaster management and preparedness careers and volunteerism.
She then shared her personal experience during Katrina. Originally out of town for business, Franklin was called back to New Orleans by the director of the health department as Katrina approached the city. She spent several days after the storm in the Superdome, working with teams sent to the gulf region from around the country to provide healthcare to the storms victims. Eventually, with growing unrest among refugees housed in the Superdome, she and her colleagues had to escape to safer locations.
Franklin mixed personal anecdotes with general lessons in public health. She started by demonstrating that the areas of the city worst hit by Katrina were those where public health predictors (education, race, income level, and health) were already the lowest – exacerbating escape and rescue efforts.
Moving on to disaster response, she explained that while the rest of the country was growing impatient watching CNN, response teams from around the continent were gearing up to care for the sick and injured in New Orleans. The seeming delay in their arrival was necessary to ensure safety for workers and victims and adequate and appropriate coordination, information, and supplies. Franklin showed great admiration for the firefighters, paramedics, and other emergency response teams that supported her department’s efforts during the aftermath of Katrina.
One silver lining of the devastation of Katrina is improved and increased response coordination and emergency preparation in Louisiana and raised awareness across the country. At one point during her lecture, Dr. Franklin used members of the audience to demonstrate the number of key players who have to work together to handle such a disaster and the strict organization needed to maintain control and to manage limited resources.
Dr. Franklin bravely shared some of her personal story as well. She lost her home, her pets, and her parents’ home in Katrina. She works every day to help the city to recover from Katrina’s effects. As her colleague, Robert Gillio, said about Dr. Franklin, “She did the heroic. She stayed and continues to stay, everyday facing the human tragedy of the nations worst natural disaster and brings to the recovery a vision and drive to surpass recovery and create what was never there before.”