Disaster Medicine Course Draws on Worldwide Experts

Future public health leaders are trained to solveongoing crises during disaster simulations.

September 2007

By Kristi L. Koenig, MD, and Tareg Bey, MD

In May, 35 physicians and other emergency management students from around the world came together in Courmayeur, Italy, for 2 weeks of intensive training about disaster medicine--the so-called "live-in course" for the seventh edition of the European Master of Disaster Medicine (EMDM).

Launched in San Marino in April 1998 and organized by the Universita del Piemonte Orientale, Italy, and the Free University Brussels, Belgium, the EMDM is a second-level master program lasting 1 academic year. Upon successful completion of the program, candidates receive a Master diploma recognized by the European Union.

In addition to course participants, faculty with disaster medicine expertise traveled to Italy from partner universities. Drawing on expertise from universities in several countries (including Belgium, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States), faculty were also recruited from key international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Council of Europe, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Highlights of the course included a live, full-scale disaster drill with moulage patients after a mock plane crash and a computer-generated, interactive simulation game called "Riceland," in which participants worked in small groups to manage emerging issues of an ongoing disaster. With disasters being a global issue and different legislation and cultures around the world, it was exhilarating to see the dynamic creativity exhibited by future leaders from multiple countries as they solved ongoing crises during the simulation.

The EMDM is divided into four components:

  • Self study under faculty guidance via a Web-based e-learning platform. Expert faculty continuously update the eight Web modules that include topics such as disaster research, ethics, mental health, medical management, and complex humanitarian emergencies.

  • An annual live-in course where the students participate in interactive sessions, debates, and exercises with the faculty.

  • A disaster medicine or disaster management thesis.

  • A final online examination with multiple choice questions and an electronic simulation exercise.

The EMDM represents a unique opportunity to share knowledge and collaborate on disaster management and disaster medicine research. It expands opportunities for all participants to benefit from the unique knowledge of the members (such as terrorism in Israel, earthquakes in the United States and Japan, and SARS in Canada and Asia). It also improves training and raises the level of care globally.

0907disastermedEach student completes a thesis with the aid of a local health care leader and an international EMDM faculty advisor. This leads to a continuous infusion of evidence-based disaster research. The EMDM is a critical organization for furthering the science of disaster medicine and for the training of future leaders in public health preparedness.

Emergency physicians should be aware of grass roots initiatives with the goal to improve global public health preparedness such as the EMDM program. The course should be considered by emergency physicians involved in medical preparedness and response to disaster situations at local, national, and international levels.

Those interested in applying for the program or considering joining as an affiliate university can find additional information at the EMDM Web site, www.dismedmaster.com.

Dr Koenig is a professor of emergency medicine and director of public health preparedness at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine and codirector of the EMS and Disaster Medical Sciences Fellowship. She is also the ACEP Ambassador to Taiwan and a member of ACEP's Sections on Disaster and International Emergency Medicine. Dr. Bey is a professor of emergency medicine and director of international emergency medicine at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. He is also ACEP Ambassador to Germany and Switzerland, a member of ACEP's Section on International Emergency Medicine, and a member of ACEP's International Education Subcommittee.

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