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Disaster Medicine

Disaster Medicine Fellowships

By Cristina Grijalva, MD.
Vol. 13, Issue 1, January 2004

An appealing quality of emergency medicine is that it places its practitioners in positions where they can develop expertise in non-traditional areas. Disaster medicine is one such area. Given the emergency medicine physician’s practiced ease at rapid assessment, basic treatment, and triage, there is a natural progression to a field that focuses on alleviating suffering, allocating resources, and organizing chaotic environments.

Emergency medicine fellowships are becoming increasingly popular as more people recognize the ability to become involved in medically related areas as a means to improve health. Fellowships provide the opportunity for a physician to expand his or her knowledge of a certain field in a controlled, supervised manner with many resources. Through a structured program, many fellowships give physicians an opportunity to begin to learn the skills to practice academic medicine or carve a niche in an otherwise broad field.

A fellowship in disaster medicine will augment the emergency medicine resident’s clinical and organizational skills with the ability to anticipate, prepare, and respond to the events of a disaster including disaster planning, simulation, evaluation, research, and response coordination. Many disaster fellowships require concurrent study for a master of public health (or similar degree). Gaining an understanding of public health will enable a fellow to improve communication and partnerships within the multi-faceted disaster response system consisting of fire, emergency medical services (EMS), police, public health departments, and acute care facilities. Some fellowship programs include participation with Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs) or Urban Search and Rescue (USAR). Emphasis is on learning to treat and manage mass casualty situations in addition to rescue work care.

Most fellowships require residency training and board eligibility in emergency medicine. Applications vary among institutions, but may require a personal statement, letters of recommendation, curriculum vitae (CV), medical school transcripts, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores, application and acceptance into associated school of public health, and/or an interview.

To apply to a disaster medicine fellowship, contact the fellowship director. He or she will be able to provide you with instructions for application to their particular program. The best time to apply is during fall. This will provide an applicant with adequate time to apply to graduate school if that is a prerequisite. Some fellowships have an application deadline of January.

The following is a list of current disaster and disaster-related fellowships:

  1. Brown University/Rhode Island Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine: Disaster and Mass Gathering Medicine Research Fellowship
  2. George Washington University, Department of Emergency Medicine: Disaster Medicine Fellowship
  3. University of California at Los Angeles, UCLA Center of Public Health and Disasters: Disaster and Public Health Fellowship
  4. University of Texas at Southwestern, Division of Emergency Medicine: Government Emergency Medicine Security Services (GEMSS)

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles on disaster fellowships. The Disaster Section would like to track these fellowships and formulate an up-to-date list for the Web site. If you know of any more fellowships that include disaster medicine training, please contact Andrew Milsten, thru the ACEP DMS Web site. Thanks!

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