The San Juan Bautista School of Medicine (SJBSM) is located in Caguas, Puerto Rico. On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria hit the island, making landfall as a Category 4 storm. The extreme wind force and rainfall caused extensive power outages and other damage. In this Invited Commentary, the authors discuss SJBSM’s actions and lessons learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
By September 25, SJBSM had contacted students to ensure their safety and identify their immediate needs. The medical school’s primary goal was to restore services as expeditiously as possible. By October 9, SJBSM had reopened and adjusted its offerings and practices to accommodate students’ needs. The medical school worked to support students’ emotional and physical well-being as well as meet their academic needs. First- and second-year students who could not be present received recorded lectures, study guides, assessments, and other materials electronically or via hard copy. Third- and fourth-year students were authorized to complete a single clerkship rotation at another medical school in the United States. During this time, SJBSM consulted with the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, and other academic agencies. These groups offered advice on how to proceed given the hardships the medical school faced.
Since then, SJBSM has applied lessons learned from Hurricane Maria and taken measures to ensure that it can meet the needs of faculty, staff, and students in the immediate aftermath of future disasters.