Hospital Staff Reacts to Earthquake

Some docs said it was disruptive, others brushed it off as a "total nothing."

ByABC News
August 24, 2011, 11:10 AM

Aug. 24, 2011— -- Few East Coasters reported injuries from Tuesday's earthquake, but hospital staff along the eastern seaboard certainly experienced its effects. ABC News reached out to doctors to get their take on the quake.'

Recently returned from working in Kabul, Afghanistan, Dr. Amir Afkhami, assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, was evaluating a patient in his office when the bookshelves began to sway.

"By that time the tremors had stopped, I … got back to completing the evaluation of my patient," said Afkhami. "Interesting enough, my patient, who was struggling with anxiety disorder, continued to experience tremors and needed frequent reassurances that the earthquake had stopped."

Dr. Una McCann, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, was also treating a patient with anxiety. Both had lived in San Francisco, and McCann and the patient immediately assumed earthquake.

"The clinic was evacuated for approximately 20 minutes," McCann said.

Seattle professor of surgery, Dr. Ben Anderson, however, scoffed at the attention and coverage the earthquake received, calling it a "total nothing."

"The quake would barely have been remarkable had it been in Seattle, with the possible exception that an unusually large area felt it," said Anderson, who was in Washington, D.C., when the quake hit. "There was a small jolt, and dust bunnies started to fall from the ceiling rafters like snowflakes, clearly indicating that they don't dust up there much. The sum total was that I had to brush my shoulder off."

For others in the D.C. area, the shaking proved a bit more troublesome.

"One issue was lack of communication and not knowing specifically what to do, evacuate or stay put," said Dr. Kathy Helzlsouer, director of the Prevention and Research Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "Some evacuated the building with their patients, others continued uninterrupted. Phone lines [were] temporarily disrupted. It was disruptive to practice."