After Katrina: UCSF Genetic Counselor Puts Families Back Together

By Nancy Chan, UCSF News Services | June 26, 2006

Nicola Stewart got to ring the bell seven times.

It wasn't just any bell. For each toll signified that a person listed as missing after Hurricane Katrina or Rita had been found alive and his or her family notified.

In April 2006, Stewart, a genetic counselor from the UCSF Cancer Risk Program, spent a week in Baton Rouge, LA, as part of a visiting working group of genetic counselors from around the country who were tapped to assist staff at the Louisiana Family Assistance Center. The center was created to reunite missing people with their families and to help family members locate their deceased loved ones.

Since the hurricanes hit in August, almost 12,000 individuals have been reported missing. As of mid-June of this year, 10,686 people have been found alive and 860 confirmed as victims; 163 are still missing. This number changes daily, as a small brass bell that hangs on a wall in the center's office is rung triumphantly, sometimes up to five times an hour, by staff.


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