When fate swept Hurricane Katrina into New Orleans, Norman McSwain, M.D., was waiting. The Alabama-born surgeon and director of trauma for the Tulane University School of Medicine is a legendary figure in emergency-medicine circles—he founded the revolutionary prehospital protocol for care of trauma victims now used by EMTs nationally. In Katrina's aftermath McSwain, 57, found he needed all of his creative energy just to keep his patients alive. Rising waters had trapped hundreds of patients and more than a thousand staff members at Tulane and its larger, public neighbor, Charity Hospital. As generators failed and food ran low, McSwain rallied staff and patients, wading through the fetid floodwaters between hospitals to attend to patients. When the helicopters finally began to arrive, he helped coordinate a harrowing amphibious evacuation. Now back home on Bourbon Street, McSwain is busy picking up the pieces of the city's shattered public health system. "As a trauma surgeon, you never think things are hopeless," he says. "Maybe other people did. But my thought process was always, 'How am I going to solve this?'"
*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.