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July 27, 2006

ULM professor receives award for outstanding service during and after hurricanes

On July 3, Ann McMahon Wicker, assistant professor of clinical and administrative sciences in ULM’s College of Pharmacy, received an award for her work during and after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Executive Vice President’s Award for Courageous Service is given to individuals in pharmacy careers for specific incidents of inspiring, unselfish service under adverse conditions.

Wicker received her bachelor of science degree in pharmacy from ULM, her doctor of pharmacy degree from Xavier University in New Orleans, and completed a pharmacy practice residency at Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans.

A Timeline of Wicker’s Efforts:

Wicker, accompanied by her husband Brady Karl, arrived at the two-story Chalmette Medical Center on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005 to assist with Hurricane Katrina efforts. Upon arrival, Wicker and her co-pharmacists performed normal pharmaceutical duties while also filling four day’s worth of prescriptions for three buses of floor patients being evacuated. They also made IVs for the ICU patients being evacuated.

However, 62 patients remained. Wicker and the other pharmacists, anticipating storm complications, moved the first floor pharmacy upstairs to the second floor ahead of schedule. An upstairs closet would become the hospital pharmacy after Hurricane Katrina struck.

By early Monday, Aug. 29, the hospital was already on generator power. Stronger winds and rain came later that morning, and water began entering the hospital. Around noon, the generators went out, and there was no power in the building for the remainder of the ordeal.

Wicker understood the serious necessity to search the flooded pharmacy downstairs for any additional medicine to sustain the patients. Because of her leg injury from a recent fall, she could not come into contact with the contaminated water. With her husband’s aid, she transferred to a gurney on the first floor so that she could search for drugs in the pharmacy.

Approximately 200 refugees were brought to the hospital by boat later that day. Monday was spent, with little or no rest or sleep, filling prescriptions for the patients and refugees.

As the clinical manager, Wicker had to locate patients’ physicians to substitute medication, since the makeshift pharmacy did not contain a full supply of drugs. It was necessary to change drug therapy since drug inventory was being depleted.

Wicker repeatedly represented the pharmacy at department head meetings during the crisis. She was asked to send medication supplies for all situations involving the refugees, including transfers to shelters.

On Wednesday, Aug. 31, when all patients were gone, Wicker and her team helped other hospital personnel clean patient rooms and centralize patient equipment. Since food was becoming scarce, she helped the dietary department distribute wristbands to control distribution.

On Thursday, Sept. 1, Wicker and the pharmacy team helped a physician to dispense necessary drugs to hospital personnel and their families for use in their continued evacuation. Shortly afterwards, they were themselves evacuated.

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