Open Access

Teaching about disasters in medical education: the need for international collaboration

International Journal of Emergency Medicine20103:242

https://doi.org/10.1007/s12245-010-0242-4

Received: 6 June 2010

Accepted: 6 September 2010

Published: 28 October 2010

Dear Editors,

Pfenninger et al. [1] presented in a recent research paper an outline of a curriculum covering medical student disaster education. Their work demonstrated an interdisciplinary format and multi-experiential structure for a curriculum. However, understanding the rationales for including such a component in a medical curriculum might need to be clearly highlighted. Furthermore, many universities are lacking expertise in this area and find it challenging to take such decisions. These two issues were not adequately addressed by Pfenninger et al. in their paper.

Disasters caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, other natural disasters or terrorist attacks put us in situations with a high level of threat to life, property and the environment. The recent earthquake in January 2010 in the Haitian region reflects the wide scale of such damages [1]. However, looking carefully beyond this catastrophe, we realize that there has been an increasing pattern of such disasters over the last 10 years (Table 1). A careful review of data reveals that disasters caused by earthquakes with such large scale have not occurred since the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake in China. Such a trend raises the need for including a training component in the undergraduate medical and other health professional curricula covering disaster management systems and public health preparedness. The aim is to enable graduates to be prepared for risk management, how to work as part of a team and how to use a wide range of skills to respond to potential disasters in an increasingly interconnected world. Searching PubMed for medical schools that have included disasters in their programs reveals that there are a few programs covering parts of this concept [35]. Leadership in modern medicine and global health and the need in such disasters for expertise of diverse groups of health professionals necessitate that such programs be developed by collaboration between universities in the risk areas and other universities. Such initiatives might open new scopes of collaboration in the area of global health, medical education and students’ training.
Table 1

Deaths from major earthquakes, natural disasters and terror attacks from 1999 to 2010*

Year

Place

Deaths

Magnitude/others

January 2010

Haitian region

222,570

7.0

September 2009

Southern Sumatra, Indonesia

1,117

7.5

March/April 2009 up to April 2010

Mexico and then spread worldwide to over 206 countries

At least 17,700**

Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 flu pandemic

May 2008

Eastern Sichuan, China

87,587

7.9

May 2008

Myanmar (Burma)

22,000

Cyclone Nargis

May 2006

Indonesia

5,749

6.3

October 2005

Pakistan

86,000

7.6

October 2005

Mexico, Cuba, US state of Florida

63

Hurricane Wilma (Category 5)

August 2005

Bahamas, Cuba, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama

1,836

Hurricane Katrina (Category 5)

March 2005

Northern Sumatra, Indonesia

1,313

8.6

December 2004

Sumatra

227,898

9.1

December 2003

Southern Iran

31,000

6.6

August 2003

France

11,000***

Heat waves

May 2003

Northern Algeria

2,266

6.8

March 2002

Afghanistan

1,000

6.1

January 2001

Gujarat, India

20,085

7.6

September 2001

New York, USA

2,976

Terror attacks

September 1999

Taiwan

2,400

7.6

*Modified from USGS, Earthquake Hazards Program

**World Health Organization, Global Alert and Response (GAR)

***World Health Organization, The health impacts of 2003 summer heat-waves

Briefing note for the Delegations of the 53rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (http://www.euro.who.int/document/Gch/HEAT-WAVES%20RC3.pdf)

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Medical Education, Curriculum Development Unit, King Saud University, College of Medicine

References

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Copyright

© The Author(s) 2010

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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