Hopkins physician provides medical care to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico

5,000+ serve on federal medical response team
Posted at 11:21 PM, Oct 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-30 23:21:40-04

He's the real-life “Good Doctor.” A Johns Hopkins emergency physician is using his medical talents to save lives in disaster zones.
Dr. Michael Millin is a member of the federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). The team is made up of about 5,000 medical professionals from around the country.

The elite league of medical professionals is used to working in renowned hospitals, but when they're deployed, they work in makeshift hospitals with limited resources.

“There's very little use of labs and x-rays. It's a lot of thought and difficult living conditions, so it's not the right thing for every doctor,” said Dr. Millin, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

It's the right thing for Dr. Millin. He first got hooked when he traveled with a team of Hopkins physicians to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“When I came back from Katrina, I felt like this was something that I really wanted to be a focal point of my career. So, I started exploring what this was all about and discovered the DMAT program,” said Dr. Millin.

He applied to be a member of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). Millin was accepted, and then he went to Haiti.

“We were there about 72 hours after the earthquake, and there for about two weeks straight,” said Millin.

This year, hurricane season caused massive devastation wreaking havoc on much of the southern United States.

“I deployed to Florida to support efforts for Hurricane Irma. I was home about two weeks and then I deployed to Puerto Rico to support efforts from Hurricane Maria,” Millin said.

Millin deployed to Comerio, a town of about 20,000 people. He took care of patients in a makeshift clinic running off generators. He also traveled through mountainous terrain for house calls.

“There was a patient I saw who was in a building, a very small home. Right next to her home, the entire home had slid off into the mountainside,” Millin said. “Power infrastructure entirely down, trees down all over the power lines, and that’s 4-5 weeks after the hurricane that amount of destruction still in existence.” 

He saw people with chronic conditions left without care or medicine. His team treated an outbreak of eye infections, and healed many with dog bites and skin infections.

“In the 12 days we operated the clinic, we saw just over 400 patients,” said Millin.

The 11 member team slept on the floor and dealt with unsanitary living conditions. It’s a situation most look forward to leaving behind, but that wasn’t the case for Millin.

“I have a wife, I have kids, I've got great work I do at Hopkins and so, there's another life as well. So sometimes it's actually the opposite, you have to remind yourself of the rest of your life because it's easy to get trapped into a disaster, and it’s very hard to leave. There's a part of my heart that will always be in Puerto Rico. There's a part of my heart that still lives in Haiti. Every time I deploy out, part of me stays there because the work is so meaningful to me,” said Millin.

Before Dr. Millin left Puerto Rico, his team formed a partnership with local pharmacists, physicians and activists to better help stabilize the community.

While he loves what he does, their goal is to give the community what it needs to survive on its own then move on to the next emergency situation.

In addition to his work on the federal medical response team, and locally at Hopkins, Dr. Millin is the medical director for Prince George's County Fire and EMS Department and the medical director for Maryland Search and Rescue.