Sisters Who Serve the World: Jennifer McQuade

Dr. Jennifer McQuade (Lambda Gamma | Virginia). Known as one of “Harvey’s Heroes,” Sister McQuade (far right) helped mobilize medical efforts in Houston after devastating Hurricane Harvey hit earlier this fall.

Dr. Jennifer McQuade is a physician-scientist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. In the August 2017, she became involved in medical disaster relief when she helped set up medical shelters in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. From this, she formed the Medical Disaster Response Network which has sent countless medical supplies to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Dr. McQuade jumped at the opportunity to help her community when Hurricane Harvey dumped 51 inches of rain on Houston. When she went to the George R. Brown Convention Center to bring her donations, she saw controlled chaos. “Helicopters landing on the overpass every 10 minutes to drop off evacuees from high-water rescues, people arriving soaking wet loaded into the back of garbage trucks. There was one first aid table with one other doctor and 2 nurses who also lived in the neighborhood doing basic first aid with donated Band-Aids and Tylenol,” she recounts.

Dr. McQuade’s next step was to post a call for help for medical volunteers on a Facebook group page called the Physician Moms Group. From that posting, she received a message from Dr. Ashley Saucier who had set up the Baton Rouge Emergence Aid Coalition after the floods in Baton Rouge a year prior during which she had run a medical shelter. Dr. Saucier encouraged Dr. McQuade to start a medical shelter and explained how to make it happen.

“I did not run the shelter. The City of Houston EMS MD team did and did an amazing job. But when I came back to the shelter on Day 2, there were 5,000 evacuees and still no medications other than over the counter medications and not enough medical personnel to care for this vast tide of humanity with pressing needs for insulin, cardiac medications, antibiotics, advanced wound care, etc.”

Dr. McQuade put another call out on social media and by that evening, had an entire pharmacy set up of medications donated from a small independent pharmacy who heard of the need as well as physicians that emptied their sample closets.

By Day 3, there were 10,500 evacuees and a full team of 30 medical professionals round the clock with an operational triage system, different levels of care, and even an “assisted living facility” with 75 residents.

On Day 4, when the Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team arrived to take over operations, they said it was the most well-stocked and well-run medical shelter they had ever walked into.

They then shifted the resources which continued to pour in to set up medical shelters at NRG Stadium and Lakewood Church and then began trucking and flying medical supplies via the Cajun Airlift to eastern and coastal Texas and western Louisiana.  From this, Dr. McQuade formed the Medical Disaster Response Network, a grassroots medical relief group meant to connect needs and resources during medical disasters.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, 1,800 lbs. of excess medical supplies from the Houston shelters that were now closing were sent to San Juan for medical relief there. Dr. McQuade has now been involved in 11 flights of over 100,000 lbs. of disaster relief supplies to San Juan.

“I got involved because there were people in need and as a physician I have both the calling and the resources to help. I have stayed involved for the same reason. The first day in the shelter, I had diabetics that had been without their medications for 48 hours and I not only didn’t have insulin but I couldn’t even check their blood sugar. Patients with new cardiac stents that we didn’t have Plavix for, infected wounds we didn’t have antibiotics for, patients with epilepsy that we didn’t have seizure medicines for. That is a horribly desperate and helpless feeling. And I have heard that same helpless desperation in the voice of physicians in East Texas and in Central Puerto Rico. That feeling has kept me going and has left me with nightmares.”

Sister McQuade is a true Sister who serves the world! In disaster relief, she was able to immediately meet critical needs of her Houston community. Dr. McQuade is an alumna of the Lambda Gamma Chapter at the University of Virginia.

Her advice to the future generations of Chi Omega is to, “Get out there, get your hands dirty and DO something! Chi Omega is a service organization. Don’t just be the sister that enjoys the fundraising parties.”