Dr. Jeffrey Rouse is New Orleans' coroner—a job he describes as the “interface between law and medicine.” But ten years ago, he was working in a lab studying the brains of people with PTSD, getting ready for a life in academia.
When the storm hit, Dr. Rouse and his family evacuated to Houston. A moment he caught on TV brought him back to the city. “I...remember being glued to the television and seeing a police officer that I knew on camera, crying,” he recalls. “And that was not this guy's temperament.” Armed with his background in psychiatry and a gun, Dr. Rouse hitched a ride back into the city with a reporter and set up a makeshift clinic inside a Sheraton hotel lobby to provide medical care to first responders.
Nine years later, he ran for coroner, which he calls “the most bizarre job interview a human being can ever go through.” After a year in office, Dr. Rouse talks about making controversial judgment calls in police shootings, working out of a temporary office in a converted funeral home, and writing condolence notes to every family after signing a death certificate.Rush Jagoe) A refrigerated truck storing bodies of decedents sits on the street alongside the coroner's office. (Katie Bishop)