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SLU PA Student Helps Community Fight Rising Flood Waters During Clinical Rotation

The first day in a new setting can always be a little stressful – meeting new people, learning new tasks, figuring out new surroundings – it all can take some time to feel well-adjusted. Now, imagine if your first day in this new setting involved trying to fight back an oncoming flood.

That was exactly the situation in which Saint Louis University Physician Assistant student Emily Sloan found herself when she arrived for her first day of her clinical rotation at Family Medicine in Hardin, IL. Hardin sits near the banks of the Illinois River in Calhoun County and is close enough to feel the impact from flooding of both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Heavy rainfall this spring caused the Illinois River to crest at 37.8 feet, which was enough for the county to declare a state of emergency and for the US Coast Guard to close the Illinois River to all commercial and recreational traffic due to the high waters.

Emily Sloan and Melissa Zippricht

SLU PA student Emily Sloan (left) and her clinical preceptor Melissa Zipprich, PA-C, (right) traveling on a boat through the Hardin, IL flood waters.

Family Medicine is the workplace of SLU PA alumna and clinical preceptor Melissa Zipprich, PA-C, and when she welcomed Sloan to the clinic for her rotation, she did not anticipate that one of their first activities would be laying sandbags to try to protect the town from the rising waters.

Sloan looked back on her experiences over the recent weeks watching how the changing river levels have impacted the town of Hardin.

“It has been surreal to watch the water rise up, then fade away, then come back up. Just when you think it is getting better and roads are opening, it’s actually about to get a lot worse,” Sloan said. “A lot of people here have been comparing it to the big flood of ’93.”

As the water continues to rise, Family Medicine, as well as other local residents and businesses, have had to adapt in order to continue operating in Hardin.

“The local high schools bussed in kids to help sandbag, and we’ve been seeing some patients in the parking lot because there’s no ramp into the building right now with the porch entrance being under water,” Sloan said. “They started speculating that the levee would be breached due to heavy rainfall up north, so we packed up the medical office today and moved further up into the city into an empty dentist office so patients can continue to be seen there.”

Hardin, IL Flood Images

Images from the flooding in Hardin, IL

With this natural disaster, the city of Hardin has asked for help from those who are able to give. Family Medicine needs tetanus shots and individuals who are able to administer them and the city needs items such as bottled water, food and, eventually, volunteers to help with cleanup efforts. Those wishing to help or to volunteer can contact Village Clerk Danielle Hurley at (618)-578-4762 or stay up to date with ongoing efforts at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Those wishing to donate to the cleanup efforts can also contact SLU Physician Assistant Program Assistant Professor Rhonda Pulver, MHS, PA-C, at

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of nearly 13,000 students on two campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.