USF provides aid to Puerto Rican hurricane victims

Twelve USF Health physicians will travel to Puerto Rico over the next few months, while USF invites 240 Puerto Rican medical students to finish this semester in Tampa

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 2, 2017) – The University of South Florida (USF) is taking action to assist in the massive relief effort underway in Puerto Rico. 

A team of 12 USF Health doctors will travel to Puerto Rico over the next few months – including two this week — to provide medical care to patients still recovering from recent hurricanes. This group of internal medicine and pediatric physicians will support needs at various medical facilities across the island.

In addition, after being contacted by Ponce Health Sciences University (PHSU), USF has agreed to allow the Puerto Rican institution’s medical students the opportunity to complete their current semester in Tampa.  If USF’s offer is approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the accreditation organization shared by the two schools, 240 students, as well as supporting faculty, staff and administrators could arrive later this month and remain in Tampa through at least December.

“We’re proud that our outstanding Morsani College of Medicine was contacted and we are pleased that we can be of assistance to our neighbors in Puerto Rico,” said USF System President Judy Genshaft. “Our top-notch faculty can ensure that the medical students from Puerto Rico can have a quality experience at USF. We appreciate the opportunity to provide resources and personnel to those who have been impacted by the recent storms.”

Archived image of medical school building at Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico

The team of USF Health doctors flying to Puerto Rico will stay there for at least the next two weeks.  The attending physicians, who also serve as USF faculty members and speak Spanish, have responded to other international situations in the past, mostly recently deploying to Africa during the Ebola outbreak.

“For USF Health, making life better isn’t just a slogan, it’s a way of life.  Today, Dr. Genshaft authorized, and I directed members of our medical faculty to join the relief efforts in Puerto Rico.  Our physicians, who are already well-versed in international disaster response will be in Puerto Rico this week,” said Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine.  “Additionally, we are pleased to offer assistance to Ponce Health Sciences University in their efforts to continue to serve their medical school students.”

The group from PHSU would include 85 first-year medical students, 85 second-year medical students and 70 master’s students studying health sciences. While exact details are still being finalized, USF’s offer would provide classroom and laboratory space on nights and weekends when the facilities are not being used by USF students. USF faculty would provide teaching support as needed and Puerto Rican students would be primarily housed on the USF campus in Tampa.  A decision from the LCME could come as early as this week.

“We greatly appreciate the support Dr. Genshaft and Dr. Lockwood have offered to our medical students.  We look forward to working with them to finalize our decision to move to Tampa this week,” said Dr. Olga Rodriguez de Arzola, dean of medicine at Ponce Health Sciences University.

Last Friday, the USF System also announced that all out-of-state fees will be waived for students enrolled for the fall 2017 or spring 2018 semester whose permanent residence is located in either Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The USF Foundation has put together a crowdfunding page, USF Herdfunder, to help raise funds for USF Health’s hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Gifts will help USF Health purchase and transport supplies and equipment to Puerto Rico, as well as travel expenses of USF faculty, staff, medical residents, and students to assist in the relief and recovery effort. To donate, please click here.