Leading with Science: One Year After Hurricane Maria

On the first year anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, several of the senior authors of the May 2018 New England Journal of Medicine paper “Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria”  discussed the motivation and rationale for the study, the significance of their findings, the impact of their research, and their decision to release all their data and code online. The September 21 panel,  Beyond Hurricane Maria: Leading With Science, featured speakers from all the collaborating organizations (Harvard FXB, Dr. Satchit Balsari; Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Caroline O. Buckee; Biostatistics, Harvard Chan & Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Professor Rafael Irizarry; and Carlos Albizu University, Dr. Domingo Marqués), except for the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The beginning of the report on the panel by Karen Feldscher and our colleagues at Harvard Chan is below:

After Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, statistician and genomics expert Rafael Irizarry of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a native of Puerto Rico, was hearing dire reports of death and destruction from friends and family on the island. So when the governor of Puerto Rico announced in early December 2017 that there had been only 16 storm-related deaths, Irizarry thought the number sounded “impossible.”

Concerned that the Puerto Rican government was unaware of the storm’s true death toll, Harvard Chan School’s Caroline Buckee and Satchit Balsari initiated a study of storm-related mortality, working with co-authors including Irizarry and other experts from Harvard Chan School and Puerto Rico. Published last May, the study estimated that there had been somewhere between 800 and 8,500 excess deaths in Puerto Rico related to the hurricane through the end of December 2017.

Read more of this article.

Watch a webcast of the panel discussion.

Read about the original study, along with link to the paper.

Read a recent author statement and some updates.

photo: Nilagia McCoy
From left: Domingo Marqués-Reyes, Satchit Balsari, Rafael Irizarry, Caroline Buckee