By Admin | October 28, 2007
Dr. Daniel Nuss is Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology at Louisiana State University. One of the members in his department is Dr. Anna Pou, who was arrested and booked on charges of murder in the deaths of four patients at Memorial Hospital in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. He recently gave us his thoughts on Dr. Pou and what was happening in New Orleans during and after the storm. This is the first of a two-part interview.
How long has Dr. Pou worked for you as Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology?
She joined our group in 2004, but I had known her professionally for at least 10 years before that, as we both were alumni of both LSU and the University of Pittsburgh, although we were not synchronous at either place.
What is her main area of expertise
Head and neck oncology, and microvascular reconstructive surgery of the head and neck. These specialties deal with some of the most challenging and difficult problems in all of medicine. Facial deformities, people who can’t speak, breathe, swallow, hear, etc.Did you as Chair ask her to stay behind to take care of patients at Memorial Hospital?
No, our group had a standing policy that whomever was on the call schedule when a hurricane evacuation was announced, a so-called “Code Grey”, would be responsible for staying.
Remember that prior to Katrina, there never had been any episode in which anyone was trapped anywhere, so up to then it had simply been an inconvenience to have to stay.
She was the one on call, and our group had all its’ inpatients at the Memorial Hospital.
What directions did you give her or other members of your department as you realized the storm was about to hit?
The directions were actually clear from medical staff bylaws, in the sense that physicians are required to provide for their patients in times of disaster and must either stay to take care of them, or arrange for another MD to do so.
Dr. Pou, always the most conscientious one, declined to delegate that responsibility to anyone else. True to her usual giving nature, she did release the residents who were assigned to stay on duty with her, allowing them to take themselves and their young families out of harm’s way.
What did you do during the storm? Evacuate or stay in the city?
My mother-in-law was actually an inpatient at Memorial with a serious illness (idiopathic pancreatitis) on the eve of the hurricane, and I packed her up and evacuated her to Houston with my wife, 9-year old daughter, and father-in-law.Knowing what happened, in retrospect I wish I had arranged for them to get out, and I would have stayed at Memorial.
Why did you decide to set up a legal defense fund for Dr. Pou? How much did you collect and how much was used by Dr. Pou?
In the beginning, it was made clear that the proceedings were not simply going to be “malpractice” proceedings, but instead would be viewed as “criminal” allegations and therefore, malpractice insurance was of no use to her.
Because of the sensationalistic way in which the case was reported, it was also clear that defending it would be lengthy and expensive.
Knowing Anna Pou to be an extraordinary, dedicated, and highly ethical doctor, I knew there was no truth to the allegations, and every doctor and nurse who knew her and were familiar with her work felt the same.
I decided that as chairman of my university department, in contact with so many alumni and supportive physicians, I should use my position to build support for her. While I was “in charge” of the fund, with donations coming through my office, we quickly received tens of thousands of dollars within 6 or 8 weeks, I would guess.
However, I was admonished by the leadership of the school that it was not appropriate for me to administer this defense fund because of my responsibilities to the University, and at that point Dr. Pou’s brother Michael took over and organized it.
I do not know how much was eventually raised but would not be surprised if it exceeded $100,000.
Did you know or had you worked with the two nurses she was charged with?
I knew them both. They regularly took care of my own head and neck cancer patients and skull base surgery patients. They were superb, dedicated, and highly skilled, seasoned ICU nurses.
After she was arrested and charged what did she do for your department?
She first spent time reorganizing our residents’ curriculum and didactic education. Much of this was behind the scenes, office work.
Remember, reporters were hounding her and even stalking her, and I did not feel it was in her best interest to work in public places. Also, our whole residency program had just been “washed away” and there was much to be done.
She was the perfect person to do it. She did it so well that we easily won our accreditation just a few months later.
Have you ever discussed in details the days she spent in the hospital after Katrina hit?
No. She and I both knew she could not talk about them as soon as the allegations were made and lawyers got involved. However, I can honestly say I never felt the need to ask her whether she had done anything inappropriate; I simply knew, based on all our prior interactions, that she would not have lifted a finger to harm anyone.
If you had to describe in one word this whole episode what word would you use?
Kafka-esque. I am mindful of the Kafka novel, “the Trial”, in which the protagonist is falsely and aggressively accused of a heinous crime, and the trial takes on an absurd, surreal life of its own.
Copyright 2007 DailyInterview.net