Water strands UH medical student
A clinical research fellowship in Iowa is ending with more adventure than Hawaii medical student Stephen Chun expected.
He said Saturday by telephone he and other volunteers had been "trying pretty desperately to put up sandbags" to protect against rising waters from the Iowa River on the University of Iowa campus. "But sort of midway in the day, when I saw the way the river was rising, I just left it to the National Guard," he said.
Chun has been at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center in Iowa City for about a year on a fellowship with the Doris Duke Foundation.
He was worried about getting to an airport to catch a scheduled flight Wednesday to start his third year at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.
He said he was supposed to leave from Cedar Rapids, where flooding caused widespread destruction and a reported 24,000 people fled from their homes. But one of the roads to the airport was flooded, he said.
"Now I'm looking to get a flight from Des Moines or Illinois," he said. "As a last resort, I may drive to Chicago."
Chun co-authored a paper in 2006 on a condition called broken heart syndrome, triggered by pacemaker implantation. On the Iowa fellowship, he has been looking at pancreatic cancer, specifically therapies that work at the molecular level.
"When I saw floodwaters rising and we were putting down sandbags, I thought this is like a patient with pancreatic cancer. We can throw all of our team of therapies at it, and it's almost futile."
Chun said he was "doing a lot of reflecting when I saw all the water rising. We were trying so hard to protect the city. A lot of university buildings were evacuated. We were trying to save as many buildings as we can."
Cedar Rapids was almost completely evacuated, and all patients from hospitals in the city were transferred to the University of Iowa medical school's hospital, he said. The University of Iowa closed, canceled all classes and ordered an evacuation, he said.
"We're trying to discharge all patients that we can because there's such an overload of patients right now."
He said nearly half of Iowa City was flooded but that he was safe at the hospital. "Luckily, we're on a hill."
He said professors at the UH medical school have been supportive, just telling him to keep safe.