UC Davis Magazine Online
Volume 23
Number 2
Winter 2006
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Douglas Gross with a woman who had lost her home.

Medical missions to West Africa accustomed Douglas Gross to seeing the deepest poverty, but nothing prepared the School of Medicine faculty member for the wide swath of ruin he found in New Orleans weeks after Hurricane Katrina —“destruction as far as the eye could see.”

Gross, who spent a week providing medical care in New Orleans in October, was one of numerous UC Davis volunteers who traveled to the Gulf Coast to help with relief efforts. They provided medical care, worked at shelters and rescued people from their flooded homes.

“I felt very strongly that I needed to do something,” Gross said.

Back at UC Davis, students, alumni, faculty and staff also pitched in, raising money, giving blood and collecting non-perishable food, toiletries, school supplies and new clothes to send to Katrina victims. One UC Davis law school student went online to offer transplanted students rides, housing, clothes and, for any horseback riders, even the loan of her horse. Veterinary students who run a pet-loss support hotline comforted survivors who were grieving the loss of animal companions that died or were left behind.

The campus enrolled 38 students from Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi who had been displaced by the storm. “After school started, I let out a sigh of relief,” said Cassandra Lopez, a Tulane University law student who found a new academic home at UC Davis. (Another Tulane transplant tells her story in "Shelter from the Storm.")

UC Davis faculty members also offered their expertise, advising policymakers and educating the public on flooding, emergency-care, fuel, race and poverty issues, establishing protocol for doctors giving pain medication to patients they didn’t know, and training mental-health workers to best help Katrina victims.

Some UC Davis employees were among the first wave of relief volunteers. Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef offered paid leave for anyone who volunteered for service in organizations like the Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mike Bavister, a computer programmer in Shields Library, spent Aug. 30 to Sept. 15 with an urban search-and-rescue team sponsored by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. A communications specialist, he worked with radios, computers and a Global Positioning System as the team navigated New Orleans’ flooded streets in boats and rescued people from their homes. He has been part of the California Task Force 3 rescue team for nine years.

Allison Miller, an operating room nurse, was part of a crew of flight nurses from the Air Force Reserves who treated Katrina evacuees taken to the New Orleans airport in the immediate aftermath of the storm. “Patients were scattered all over the hallways, seating areas and any available space,” Miller said. “Most of the people I saw were elderly, lying in litters or sitting in wheelchairs. The scene was heart-wrenching and unbelievable. I never thought I would experience this in my home country.”

Julia Ann Easley, a senior public information officer, spent three weeks at a Red Cross shelter in Baton Rouge, arranging media interviews and assisting with a tour by former President Clinton.

Many on campus had ties to the region. Jennifer Beeman, director of the Campus Violence Prevention Program, had family members in New Orleans. She volunteered for the American Red Cross, managing evacuee shelters—first in Hahnville, a town about 25 miles outside of New Orleans, then for almost three weeks in Baton Rouge. “I thought, there needs to be more I can do than sit in front of the TV crying. I just really needed to do something.”

Gross, a pediatrician and medical anatomy senior lecturer, volunteered for a relief effort organized by a Louisiana church consortium. He worked in an RV in a Wal-Mart parking lot in New Orleans’ historic St. Bernard Parish, treating people who returned to find that, in addition to their homes being destroyed, their doctors’ offices and clinics were also gone.

Many patients suffered breathing ailments from the mold that flourished as the floodwaters receded, he said. Flies and the stench of rotting food were everywhere. A layer of sludge coated the ground. No grass or shrubs grew.

More devastating was the “tremendous sadness” of the people he treated. Gross said about half of them didn’t expect New Orleans to fully recover and planned to move somewhere else to rebuild their lives.

Among the people he met: A woman who had no flood insurance and lost her home just two weeks after making her final mortgage payment, a widow whose husband of 35 years drowned in the flood and could not be buried in their hometown, and an 83-year-old man who lost 11 hand-written volumes of his genealogy research.

The disaster is far from over, Gross said. “Most of the people are really still hurting, so don’t forget about them.”



  William Lloyd photo
Photo: Kelly Gastman

At right, UC Davis ophthalmologist William Lloyd examines the eyes of two North Chilean mummies for evidence of various diseases and medical conditions. One of the eyes belonged to a boy who was 2 years old when he died 1,000 years ago, and the other is from a female who was approximately 23 years old when she died 750 years ago.

“By analyzing these eyes, we hoped to determine if their pathology suggests any so-called modern day diseases, like diabetes or high blood pressure,” said Lloyd. “And while there was no immediate evidence of such diseases, we’d like to do more research."

He volunteered to examine the eyes after Arthur Aufderheide, the founder of modern paleopathology (the study of ancient diseases), said in the May 16 issue of The New Yorker magazine that he’d been saving the eyes for the right investigator. The thin tissues that make up the eye allow it to dehydrate quickly, and because moisture causes decay, most mummies are found with well-preserved eyes. Lloyd said many systemic ailments can be found by examining the eyes, including, in addition to diabetes and high blood pressure, various cancers, nutritional deficiencies, fetal alcohol syndrome and even early signs of HIV infection. “We hope to find something new about what kind of ailments might have afflicted ancient people.”



Rachel Sawyer photo
Rachel Sawyer has a safe place to recover from a tracheotomy at a new homeless shelter opened with help from the UC Davis Medical Center. Photo: José Luis Villegas

The tracheotomy 20-year-old Rachel Sawyer suddenly needed in mid-August meant the Sacramento-area homeless woman had to find a safe, clean environment where she could properly heal during the approximately six-week recovery period.

Luckily, the Interim Care Program, an 18-bed shelter available to qualified homeless men and women, had just been opened through a partnership of the Salvation Army, UC Davis Medical Center, Mercy Hospitals/CHW and Sutter Medical Center of Sacramento.

Here, participants like Sawyer can stay for an identified amount of time, have access to support services and substance-abuse counseling, and receive three meals a day. A nurse provides oversight for the participants to ensure the appropriateness of their stay in the program.

Funding is provided by the participating hospitals, as well as the Sacramento Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Human Assistance, and MAAP (formerly Mexican American Alcoholism Program).

According to Cruz Guzman, the Sacramento Salvation Army shelter services director, the negotiations for the program began about three years ago when a need in the homeless community became strikingly apparent.

“The homeless individuals that were seen in the hospitals were discharged into the streets,” Guzman said, “and they would sometimes come back soon after to the emergency room for things that did not require emergency treatment.”

Providing a more appropriate place for the homeless to heal frees up community hospital beds. The program also allows the Salvation Army to start casework with each person earlier than usual to identify services that could further particular needs, Guzman noted.

While additional beds may be added in the future, Guzman said that he and the other partners are initially concentrating on smoothing operations of this first-of-its-kind program. He says the Salvation Army, along with the homeless population, is grateful for what is now available.

That’s indeed true for shelter patient Sawyer. A chronic drug user, Sawyer found the tracheotomy and long recovery to be a much-needed wake-up call.

— Nadine Elsibai



William Cruess photoFruit cocktail. You can thank Prohibition and William Vere Cruess, in part, for the abundance, quality and safety of dried, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, juices and olives in your local grocery store.

During the dry years from 1919 to 1933, the fermentation expert turned his research and teaching focus to preservation of unfermented fruit products.

Cruess maintained an interest in wine, but he would become known as a pioneer in food science and technology. He invented fruit cocktail and helped develop raisin breakfast cereal, bottled prune juice and fruit nectars, canned and frozen orange juice, commercially frozen and dried produce, processed olives and better rations for World War II troops, among numerous other accomplishments.

Cruess’ career and scientific accomplishments spanned a half-century of sweeping changes in the way Americans eat and shop for their food and how food is delivered from farm to table—with the advent of modern refrigerators, frozen foods, supermarkets and a vast array of consumer choices.

A former San Miguel farm boy who grew up on a diet of mostly beans, salt pork and homemade bread, Cruess hated to see food go to waste, some of his former students told UC Davis food science and technology professor emeritus John Whitaker. Whitaker is researching Cruess’ life for a chapter in a book about food-science pioneers.

Fruit cocktail, for instance, made use of blemished peaches and pears. In the early 1920s, Cruess and colleagues canned a mixture of cubed peaches and pears, crushed pineapple, maraschino-style cherries and chopped grapefruit and sold it at local markets. Commercial canners later substituted grapes for the grapefruit.

Retired food-industry scientist Clair Weast, 92, of Manteca, described his former professor as a quiet man and a hard-working scientist who took students under his wing. “I always felt from the first time I walked in the door, his arms were open,” said Weast. “He was like a father to everyone in that department.”

Cruess spent his entire career as a UC Berkeley faculty member, but he was closely connected with the Davis campus. After early rains in September 1918 damaged much of California’s prune, raisin grapes and other crops left out to sun dry, Cruess and colleagues came to Davis to do their pioneering work developing mechanical dehydrators.

The food science and technology department he led 1935–48 as founding chair moved to Davis in 1951. A campus yeast collection, used in wine and a wide array of other research, includes a number of strains collected and cataloged by Cruess. And one of his students and longtime colleague, Emil Mrak, was UC Davis’ chancellor in 1959–69.

— Kathleen Holder



As the campus nears its 2008–09 centennial celebration, we take a look back at what was happening 100 years ago.

With scores of Northern California communities jockeying for the University Farm, Davis didn’t always look like the sure winner. In fact, the tiny railroad town nearly got edged out of the running in the final stretch.

Under a 1905 state law, the responsibility for picking the location fell to a blue-ribbon panel made up of the governor, lieutenant governor, the University of California president and two agricultural leaders.

But when it came to evaluating more than 70 proposed sites throughout Northern California, most the work fell to an appointed expert—Edward J. Wickson, longtime editor of the influential Pacific Rural Press weekly newspaper, author of now-classic texts on California fruit and vegetable gardening, and UC’s acting dean of agriculture.

After several months of inaction, the state commission deadlocked and punted to the popular plant scientist, said John Lofland, UC Davis sociology professor emeritus who helped curate an exhibit, Davisville 1905–06: The Beginning of a New Direction, which runs March 23 through mid-June in Shields Library.

The Sacramento Union newspaper, in a report on a Nov. 27, 1905, commission meeting, described a split between Lt. Gov. Alden Anderson and UC President Benjamin Wheeler. Anderson, a Suisun fruit grower and shipper, tried to narrow Wickson’s review to sites only in Solano and Yolo counties. Wheeler—widely believed to favor locating the University Farm near Berkeley—succeeded in keeping the field wide open, authorizing Wickson to consider land that had not even been offered.

Wickson began his task by eliminating sites that lacked the fertile soil, train access and irrigation water required by the law authorizing the University Farm. Then, over the next two months, he visited 69 sites in 14 counties.

“I have traveled 1,627 miles by rail, 302 miles by automobile, 105 miles by team [for a] total of 2,034 miles,” he wrote in his report to the commissioners. He met with hundreds of people who showed the “keenest interest” in the creation of the University Farm.

On Feb. 10, 1906, Wickson presented his report to the commission in Sacramento. Davisville, as the town of Davis was called then, did not make his final cut. His written report recommended sites near Modesto, Stockton, Woodland, Dixon and Walnut Creek. Nevertheless, the commission chose Suisun, Woodland, Davisville and Walnut Creek as finalists. Walnut Creek’s chances quickly dimmed with news reports of land speculation.

One Davisville booster, doctor Walter Bates, in a 1933 account, said that Davisville had a key supporter on the commission in Gov. George Pardee, a UC alumnus and a fellow physician who had visited Bates’ home, attended boarding school with Davisville’s lead promoter, George Pierce, and knew the proposed site.

On Feb. 17, 1906, Davisville Enterprise editor William Scott wrote that “those in a position to best understand the situation” believed the race was now between Woodland and Davis. Later that month, the state commission toured the Suisun, Davisville and Woodland sites one more time. The Enterprise reported that commissioners, while noncommittal, “expressed a lively interest” in the Davis site.

— Kathleen Holder


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