GW Hurricane Maria Documentary

Documentary Film: Fearless Science

GW Presents Fearless Science

Hurricane Maria

Despite the catastrophic effects from Hurricane Maria in 2017—the worst storm Puerto Rico had experienced in nearly a century—the official death toll on the island stood at 64. In the hurricane’s aftermath, the Puerto Rican government commissioned the George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health (GWSPH) to conduct an independent assessment of mortality there and uncover an accurate count. In essence, to find out what really happened.  

Read the Report




Initial Reported Deaths


Death Assessment Following GWSPH Research








Hurricane Maria makes landfall in Puerto Rico


The official death toll from Maria is listed as 64 mortalities



The Governor of Puerto Rico announces that GW will lead an independent study


GW’s Milken Institute School of Public Health publishes its final report, recording the official death toll from Hurricane Maria as 2,975





"So much of what we were looking at had to do with the ability to reach out to key individuals, do interviews with them, get their trust and find out what was really going on."

Lynn Goldman, M.D., M.S., M.P.H.
Michael and Lori Milken Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health




Key Researchers





Carlos Santos-Burgoa, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.

Principal investigator of the project and a professor of global health at GWSPH

"It was a very painful process…but everybody was committed. We had to find out what is the situation, and people had to be accounted for."

—Dr. Carlos Santos-Burgoa





Elizabeth Andrade, Dr.PH., M.P.H.

Behavioral scientist, project researcher and an assistant professor of prevention and community health at GWSPH

"This was a landmark study. To put it in the words of our research participants, ‘Hurricane Maria rewrote the books. Hurricane Maria made us rethink how we view disasters.’"

—Dr. Elizabeth Andrade


Project Team & Advisors

GW Team

  • Dr. Elizabeth Andrade, Dr.PH., M.P.H.; Behavioral Scientist
  • Nicole Barrett, M.P.H.; Senior Research Associate
  • Dr. Uriyoan Colon-Ramos, Sc.D., M.P.A.; Nutritionist
  • Dr. Mark Edberg, Ph.D., M.A.; Anthropologist
  • Alejandra Garcia-Meza, M.P.H.; Consultant
  • Dr. Ann Goldman, Ph.D., M.P.H, M.A.; Epidemiologist, Economist
  • Dr. Lynn Goldman, M.D., M.S., M.P.H.; Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health, Environmental Health Specialist
  • Dr. Amira Roess, Ph.D., M.P.H.; Epidemiologist
  • Dr. John Sandberg, Ph.D., M.A.; Demographer
  • Dr. Carlos Santos-Burgoa, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.; Epidemiologist

UPR Team

  • Noel Estrada Merly, M.S.; Graduate Research Assistant
  • Dr. Cruz Maria Nazario, Ph.D.; Epidemiologist
  • Dr. Cynthia Pérez, Ph.D.; Epidemiologist
  • Dr. Erick Suarez Pérez, Ph.D., M.A.; Biostatistician

Additional GW Team Members

  • Ljubica Latinovic, M.D., M.H.A.; Communications Expert
  • Ivonne Rivera, M.P.H.; Expert in Qualitative Analysis
  • Dr. Scott Zeger, Ph.D., M.S. (Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health); Biostatistician


Advisory Group

External Panel of Experts

  • Samuel Clark, Ph.D., M.A.; Demographer
  • Debarati Guha Sapir, Ph.D.; Epidemiologist
  • Bernardo Hernández Prado, DSc., M.S.; Epidemiologist, Mortality Estimation Expert
  • Matthew Seeger, Ph.D.; Communications Expert
  • Dr. Scott Zeger, Ph.D., M.S. (Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health); Biostatistician

GW Internal Technical Experts

  • Daniel Hoffman, Ph.D., M.P.H.; Epidemiologist
  • Pietro Marghella, D.H.Sc., M.Sc., M.A., CEM, FACCP; Complex humanitarian emergencies expert
  • Sam Simmens, Ph.D., M.A; Biostatistician
  • Ronald Waldman, M.D., M.P.H.; Complex humanitarian emergencies expert

Source (PDF)





Public Health vs. Politics

While there was some anticipated controversy over the revised death toll published in GW’s study, no one could have predicted one of its primary drivers—the President of the United States. Not long after the study went public, President Trump took issue with GW’s findings, falsely alleging that they were politically motivated to make him look as bad as possible. In response, Dean Goldman published an op-ed in The Washington Post, underscoring the facts that the study was based in state-of-the-art science and politics played no role.  


Dean Goldman's Op-Ed