Frontline Blog

Hurricane Harvey: In the Eye of the Storm

September 2018


By Big Cities Health Coalition Staff


It’s been one year since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston and the surrounding area with record-breaking rain and devastating floods which inflicted injuries, infectious diseases, chemical exposures and mental trauma on residents. Public health officials from the Houston Health Department, a member of the Big Cities Health Coalition, were on the front lines in the lead up to the hurricane and its aftermath. Today, many are reflecting on the events of those four historic days in August 2017 and what lessons were learned, and can still be learned, from the disaster.

Global Health Now, a project of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, is hosting a live event in Houston, “Hurricane Harvey: In the Eye of the Storm” on September 27, 2018. This event will feature a conversation with Dr. David Persse, Public Health Authority for the City of Houston and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the Vice Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Big Cities Health Coalition alumna, on the leadership lessons learned from the storm and its aftermath.

Dr. Persse played an integral role in Houston’s preparations for the storm, as well as the city’s response to the hurricane, flooding and aftermath. He will discuss how–together with local health workers on the ground–he coordinated the local and federal responses and continued to lead within a diminished local structure. He will also talk about many of the unique public health challenges posed by natural disasters, such as working with local medical personnel who are themselves personally impacted or displaced by a storm. Another topic will be how cities can leverage less conventional partners such as medical and nursing schools, pharmacies, and dialysis providers. 

Dr. Sharfstein oversees the Office of Public Health Practice and Training and is director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. He will address how the Houston Health Department learned from previous emergencies to implement an effective response to Hurricane Harvey, and discuss with Dr. Persse how his leadership and management style has evolved with experience. Dr. Sharfstein will also explore Dr. Persse’s experiences in the context of some of the topics covered in his new book, The Public Health Crisis Survival Guide: Leadership and Management in Trying Times.

If you’re in Houston on Thursday, September 27, please join this important discussion. You will find more information and an RSVP link here.