COLLEGE STATION – Nine future physicians learned about disaster medicine first-hand in a unique classroom, Disaster City?.
The fourth-year Texas A&M medical students saw a new side of emergency medicine, and the week at Disaster City tested them in ways they hadn’t expected.
Travis Sims and Heather Robinson said the customized Disaster Medical Specialist course, coordinated by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX), pushed them out of their “comfort zone” and gave them a different perspective.
“It’s an eye-opening experience,” said Robinson. “It broadened the expectation of what we can do with limited resources. You don’t have the whole emergency room; you have very limited supplies. You get a completely different perspective of what’s going on in a disaster.”
Dr. Edward J. Sherwood, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives with the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, joined the students for the weeklong class.
“We’ve been learning how to respond to disaster situations, assess patients, treat them and extricate them from difficult places, especially tight, closed spaces,” Sherwood said, adding, “The best part of this course for me was watching them work together and the enthusiasm they have shown toward learning new skills.” The intent was to stress leadership and teamwork, he said, “because all physicians need leadership and teamwork skills whether they ever practice in a disaster or wilderness setting.”
Sherwood worked with Clint Arnett and Brian Smith of TEEX to coordinate the pilot class. TEEX customized the curriculum to their skill level and prior training.
“They practiced starting airways on patients while in a tight, confined space, they learned to package a patient deep within a rubble pile, and they put all their training to work during a night exercise with over 15 volunteer victims,” Smith said. “We also provided them a chance to see new technologies, such as how portable sonograms are used to evaluate patients trapped in buildings, a new technology not yet utilized by national urban search and rescue teams.”
The TEEX staff went the “extra mile” to organize the course and to customize it, Sherwood said. “The instructors were awesome; they brought in an incredible group of instructors from around Texas and as far away as Oregon. TEEX is a premier organization for training first responders, so we couldn’t have a better organization to work with for this kind of course.”
“We’ve been incredibly pleased with how this pilot program has gone,” Sims said. “TEEX has been phenomenal, and they have high-quality instructors. For our last scenario, we did a mass evacuation, treating and extracting 15 patients. We got to see all the aspects that go into a search and rescue operation like this.”
Plans are in the works for another class in 2015. “We hope to continue it, and I’m optimistic that we’re going to have a larger class next year,” Sherwood said.
The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) is an internationally recognized leader in the delivery of emergency response, homeland security and workforce training, as well as exercises, technical assistance, and economic development. TEEX serves more than 169,000 people each year from every U.S. state and territory and 79 countries worldwide. Home to the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, TEEX also sponsors the elite Texas Task Force 1 urban search and rescue team. TEEX makes a difference by providing training, developing practical solutions and saving lives. TEEX is a member of The Texas A&M University System.