Medical students leading innovation in disaster medicine training

Over the last century, the number of disasters has remarkably increased, indicating that future generations will be called upon to provide mass-casualty treatment to an even greater extent than before. We can see terrible examples all over the world around us: the disastrous earthquake in Nepal, the storms and floods in Texas, or the recent refugee crisis in Europe, just to name some recent ones.

We believe that, in most countries, medical students do not receive enough training to face the peculiar challenges that disasters and humanitarian emergencies pose to health services. We believe that education is the key action that can reduce the mortality and morbidity of these situations, by creating more and more skilled healthcare professionals, who are able to effectively manage the disaster risk management cycle.

IFMSA and CRIMEDIM, a leading research center in emergency and disaster medicine, are hosting the First International Summer Course for Trainers in Disaster Medicine. The two week trainings is a pilot of a long-term project – the Training Disaster Medicine Trainers (TdmT). The aim of the TdmT is to train medical students who can spread knowledge and support the inclusion of disaster medicine in medical curricula. Continuous education and advocacy will ensure future doctors are familiar with the different aspects of disaster preparedness and response and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to mitigate and respond to disasters, and lead the recovery of affected communities.

TdmT stems out of DisasterSISM, the successful national project that SISM – the Italian Medical Students Association – and CRIMEDIM have carried out since 2008. DisasterSISM has trained 20 medical students as disaster medicine trainers that subsequently reached out and trained over 1500 medical students in 25 Italian medical schools. Efforts and success have been recognised by the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education (FAIMER) in 2015 when DisasterSISM won the Student Projects for Health competition organised by FAIMER.

First International Summer Course for Trainers in Disaster Medicine

TdmT intro pic 2This summer, in Novara, twelve medical students coming from ten different countries and four different regions constitute the first international class of Trainers in Disaster Medicine happening from 7th-19th September 2015. During those weeks, they will share personal experiences and knowledge while learning from each other and from teachers while enjoying Italian cuisine and culture. They will be a new generation of trainers who will spread awareness and knowledge in disaster risk management and disaster medicine in their home countries and regions.

The participants will take part in a specially designed full-immersion program which combines all the basic topics in disaster medicine with elements of international humanitarian law, disaster bioethics, public health in disasters, simulation in education, and non-formal education. The classes will include conventional lectures and innovative teaching methods, such as case discussions, problem-based learning, simulations, debates, workshops and trainings. By the end of the program, they will be able to design and deliver a basic training in disaster medicine to other medical students in their community, region, or country.

Some initial comments already tell us that the upcoming weeks will be fruitful and engaging for everyone. Ali from Iraq says:Its important to have this experience and it would be great to implement this course in the curriculum, while Anjali from USA agrees that there is a lack of this kind of course in medical curricula. Lo from Austria expressed: I want to learn what health issues exist at global level, because we only learn what happens at a single patients level.

Though a small town in Italy, squeezed between two much larger cities, Novara has the privilege of hosting a Disaster Risk Management and Disaster Medicine gathering of motivated medical students and prominent experts from organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF), the European Master on Disaster Medicine (EMDM) Alumni and the European Commissions Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

The TdmT Team includes: Luca Ragazzoni, Patrick Achkar, Giancarlo Bruno, Monika Bednarek, Eleonora Leopardi, Moa Herrgard, Ljiljana Lukic, Alice Cleason.



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