Docs in a Box, Aid from Katrina Victims  - David Bruce McMahan's plane used for relief efforts

David Bruce McMahan's Jet
First Plane to Land in Aid of Hurricane Katrina Victims

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Katrina aid doctors stand before David Bruce McMahan's plane

Brian Swirsky, a Connecticut Cardiologist, and six other physicians and an ambulance driver about to take off on McMahan's jet to aid Katrina victims.

It was August 31, 2005, and Hurricane Katrina had just left thousands of people in Biloxi, Mississippi in urgent need of medical care. Brian Swirsky, a New Haven CT cardiologist, along with his wife and his developer friend Henry Criscuolo, put together a team of six doctors and Criscuolo and fly to New Orleans.

David Bruce McMahan's plane and hurricane katrina relief workers

The plane interior was stripped bare to accommodate the maximum amount of medical supplies.

The team, put together within hours, consisted of Jack Irving (an orthopedic surgeon), Zeno Chicarilli (a plastic surgeon), Kevin Twohig (a pulmonary critical care expert), Renzo Renzi (an internist from Florida), Jim Morgan (a pediatrician), and Jim Cianciolo (a chiropractor).

docs in a box

In Mississippi, the locals called them "Docs in a box" because the doctors and their supplies went around in a truck.

Criscuolo, a retired developer with experience in shipping, was in charge of transporting supplies and the medical experts. The People of New Haven by donating medical supplies and food for the duration of the trip, plus water and food for victims.

David Bruce McMahan, Financier, provided the private jet. He stripped the plane of non-essentials so that it could carry a maximum of supplies in addition to the physicians.

the devestation of hurricane Katrina

The doctors were overwhelmed by the devastation they witnessed and the trauma it caused.

The doctors landed in Gulfport Mississippi, and took their supplies into remote communities. Seven doctors piled into one ambulance, so the locals started calling them 'docs in a box'. An ambulance crew from Missouri drove them around and a local Red Cross volunteer told them where to go. Dr. Zeno Chicarilli, plastic surgeon, said, 'We followed her leads, we scoped out each area on our own, we delivered what care we could'.

The idea was to take some of the pressure off local medical personnel. The team came back with images they will never forget.
doctor and Katrina victim stand together

Docs in a Box, with the aid of David Bruce McMahan's jet, helped many.

Criscuolo says, 'Young mothers going through piles of clothing trying to find shoes for their children, clothing for them'. Dr. Swirsky says, 'The combination of the physical destruction, which was easy to see, but the emotional destruction, as we met people and talked to people was even more impressive'. Both kinds of destruction will take a long time to heal and all of those doctors say if they got another chance to go there and help - they would take it in a second. 'We knew we were in the right place at the right time'.

Dr. Jim Morgan says, 'Even though I know that we did a lot of things there to help people, I just came away feeling that I just want to do more'.


David Bruce McMahan's Fundraising and Equipment Donation Campaign

More is being done: David Bruce McMahan, philanthropist, and NCF President Yvette Marrin have organized through McMahan's   National Cristina Foundation, named after his daughter Cristina who has cerebral palsy, an ongoing fundraising and equipment donation campaign for Hurricane Katrina Victims.

To find out how to contribute, please visit the Cristina Foundation donation website:

Seven doctors piled into one ambulance, so the locals started calling them DOCS IN A BOX