On a typical day, a 100-member team cares for the ‘animal patients’ that are vital to MD Anderson’s discovery of new cancer treatments.
As rising water from Hurricane Harvey threatened the institution’s North and South Campuses, a dedicated lean team of about a dozen people worked long hours over several days at both sites to make sure the animals were fed, watered, cared for and clean.
“Despite not knowing what their personal circumstances might be at home, the people here were 100% focused on getting the job done,’’ says Peggy Tinkey, D.V.M., chair, Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, who headed the recovery team. “We’ve planned and drilled, and I’m so relieved and proud that no harm came to any of our ‘animal patients’ during the storm.”
Sense of urgency
According to Tamika Collins, an animal resources manager in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery who was on the ride-out team on the North Campus, many days started at 7 a.m. and ended at midnight.
“We had a sense of urgency to care for the animals and check the facilities,’’ she says. “We really worked together like a family. We were grateful for the meals we received, but we did raid the vending machines a couple of times to keep us going!”
Animal Resources Supervisor Arturo Barrera was stationed on the South Campus, and says some staff members came in on foot when they couldn’t drive through high water.
“It was hard not to be with our families or to help our community, but we were where we needed to be,” he says.
Moving research forward
Vanessa Jensen, D.V.M., deputy chair and associate professor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, led the ride-out team. Although no one knew how many days they would need to be on-site, there were no complaints, and everyone had smiles, says Jensen, whose husband and daughter had to evacuate their home while she worked through the storm.
“Everyone pitched in, no matter what their role or title,” she says.
When she wasn’t involved in direct care of animals, Jensen was busy sharing information and reassuring concerned researchers.
“We take pride in what we do,” she says. “These animals are the source of what could be new discoveries, new treatments for patients – we’re all here to support our mission and to move research forward. I’m very happy to be part of this team called MD Anderson.”