Joan Broderick PhD Leads Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Response to Local and National Incidents

In June 2012, Associate Professor Joan Broderick PhD was promoted to the rank of Disaster Mental Health Chief by the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross, one of only 14 such positions in the country. Dr. Broderick is a long-time Red Cross volunteer and has been part of the Emergency Services leadership team in Suffolk County since 2004.

Her leadership skills were tested during a series of disasters in the past few months. On August 14, she deployed a team of volunteers to respond to a house explosion in Brentwood which killed a toddler and an insurance agent and wounded 17 others. Less than a week later, she personally responded to a crash of a small plane in Shirley which killed two people and severely wounded another. Then in late August, Dr. Broderick was deployed to Florida in response to Hurricane Isaac.

“Sometimes people do not realize the psychological impact of disasters like the plane crash in Shirley,” Dr. Broderick said, “but the experience was so horrific and so traumatizing that it shook the entire neighborhood.” Dr. Broderick and her team brought psychological resources and chaplaincy services to the local residents and provided referrals to local mental health agencies.

During Hurricane Isaac, Dr. Broderick served at the Red Cross state headquarters in Orlando, assisting the Chief for Florida Disaster Mental Health Operations. She was also able to spend some time further developing a new method for estimating needs for psychological services in the wake of widespread disasters.