Patricia Kauffman, MD
Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team
MD - Forensic Pathology
Team Commander DMORT Region III
Pat Kauffman’s first NDMS deployment was at the 9/11 crash site of highjacked United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. After two weeks on site, her National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) had identified every passenger and crew member.
“I learned then what I have found to be true ever since, which is that each deployment is uniquely overwhelming at its onset and uniquely gratifying at its conclusion.”
Working with NDMS since 2001, Pat is now a DMORT team commander, keeping the team prepared to respond to a mass fatality disaster with large numbers of unidentified deceased. The team includes forensic pathologists, forensic dentists, forensic anthropologists, x-ray technologists, medical investigators, funeral directors, and chaplains, all of whom work together in a portable morgue to assure the identification of deceased victims with scientific accuracy and integrity.
Pat considers her deployment in Haiti in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake as her most rewarding “because it engaged each and every one of DMORT’s forensic and mortuary specialists and challenged us to the fullest extent possible” in an unprecedented effort to locate, recover, and repatriate the remains of 120 deceased Americans from among over 250,000 dead. “It will always be among my most gratifying accomplishments that we found every American among the devastation and brought them all home.”
With eight deployments under her belt, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the COVID-19 pandemic morgue response in New York City, Pat is proud of her accomplishments in the field. “With NDMS I can devote my specialty training as a forensic pathologist in a deeply gratifying way. I can care for the unidentified dead when their families cannot be there. Being a part of NDMS gives me the opportunity to identify the unknown deceased and provide them with that final dignity—a name.”
NDMS heroes respond quickly and unselfishly to help people whose lives have been impacted by disaster or other health emergency. NDMS team members like Pat combine expertise and compassion to make a positive difference for people and their communities in the wake of devastating events.