AMA to offer standardized bioterror training for EDs

Courses offered at 4 medical centers nationwide

The American Medical Association (AMA) in Chicago is working with four prominent medical centers to provide training courses that will help prepare ED personnel for bioterrorism and other mass-casualty events.

One goal of the courses is to standardize emergency response nationwide, says James James, MD, DrPH, MHA, director of the new AMA Center for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response.

There is a wealth of information available to EDs, but there is little consistency, he says.

The initial curriculum includes courses on natural and man-made disasters, traumatic and explosive events, nuclear and radiological weapon attacks, biological events, chemical events, medical decontamination, mitigating stress on health care workers, legal issues of disaster response, health care facility and disaster planning, and mass-fatality incidents, James explains.

The courses will help the country’s emergency departments develop a more uniform response to the threat of terrorist acts, he points out.

"These courses cut across all specialties; nobody owns them," James says. "We’re trying to educate physicians and other professionals about the basics they need to better respond to the health and safety of their communities."

Although the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, increased the demand for a nationally recognized course in all-hazards training, several academic medical centers already were developing disaster education programs to meet a perceived lack of medical disaster preparedness.

Following the 2001 attacks, a National Disaster Life Support Education Consortium (NDLSEC), comprising national and international experts in disaster management, was formed under a federal grant managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All four institutions offering the courses — the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, the University of Georgia in Athens, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and the University of Texas at Houston School of Public Health — are members of NDLSEC.

The benefits of the course will go beyond terrorist acts, says Paul Pepe, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "People have been focusing on terrorism and nuclear threats, or smallpox," he says.

"But things like explosions or hurricanes can be a major threat, and we need a common way to approach these mass-casualty events as well," Pepe adds.

Sources

Dates and locations for specific courses are being finalized. For the latest information on available courses, contact:

Lise Stevens, Public Information Officer, American Medical Association, Chicago. Telephone: (312) 464-5926.

For more information on disaster preparedness, contact:

• James James, Director of the AMA Center for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response, American Medical Association, 515 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60610. Telephone: (312) 464-5000.

• Paul Pepe, MD, Chair of Emergency Medicine, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, TX 75390. Telephone: (214) 648-3111.