Fargo psychiatrist earns national honor for disaster work

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MPR photo Dan Gunderson

A familiar face at Fargo flood briefings is receiving national recognition for his disaster-related mental health work.

Dr. Andy McLean, is the medical director of Southeast Human Service Center in Fargo, a branch of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. He’s been awarded the American Psychiatric Association Bruno Lima award for 2011.

The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the care and understanding of the victims of disasters.

McLean is one of two award winners nationwide. For the past couple of years, he has sat in on the daily Fargo flood briefings, during which he offers advice — generally with a humorous anecdote.

At a flood briefing last week, he talked about the importance of planning for a possible evacuation.

“I learned preparation from my mom,” McLean said. “Her winter survival kit was a big box of grape nuts — either for traction or delicious snacks.”

McLean said people in Fargo tend to be a stoic bunch, but humor is important in stressful situations.

He said city leaders learned during the record flood of 2009 that employees needed to find ways to reduce stress because physically and emotionally stressed employees are less efficient. That’s part of the reason McLean has a seat at the flood briefing table with engineers and other flood fighters.

McLean has personal experience with floods and stress. He lives not far from the Red River, and in 2009 his house was on the wrong side of an emergency levee.

For a comprehensive and timely look at flood-related news from Minnesota and around the region, visit the MPR News flood blog Minnesota Floods ’11.

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