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COLLEGE STATION – Sixteen fourth-year medical students saw a new side of emergency medicine in a weeklong class at Disaster City® that pushed them out of their comfort zone and gave them a new perspective on treating disaster victims with limited resources.

The students from the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine had to respond to a mock disaster, assess patients, treat them and extricate them from difficult places, especially tight, enclosed spaces, said Dr. Edward J. Sherwood, Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives with the College of Medicine. Sherwood participated in the class in 2014, and College of Medicine faculty member Dr. Tyler Jorgensen participated this year.

The students practiced securing airways on patients while in a tight, confined space, learned to package a patient deep within a rubble pile, and then put all their training to work during a night exercise with over 20 volunteer victims.

The elective course is “Leadership and Teamwork in Wilderness and Disaster Medicine,” and includes a weeklong wilderness medicine program followed by the customized Disaster Medical Specialist class at TEEX.

In both weeks, the group learns about rescue and patient care in a resource-constrained environment, Sherwood said. “They quickly figure out they have to assess the team members’ skills and work together. All physicians need leadership and teamwork skills, whether or not they ever practice in a disaster or wilderness setting.

“At TEEX, the medical students practice teamwork and are challenged in an unstructured way,” Sherwood said. “They have fun and learn things in a hands-on way.

“At the pilot class last year, one of the biggest benefits I saw was the students’ enhanced self-confidence. These fourth-year students are graduating soon and starting their residency, where they are expected to know what to do. This helps them gain self-confidence. And some students even overcame their fear of heights or confined spaces during the class.”

Brian Smith coordinated the class, with assistance from Clint Arnett. Instructors were Dr. Alexandre Migala, Dr. David Teller, Anthony DiMarco and Justin Todd.

“I have enjoyed working with TEEX, and the instructors are fantastic,” Sherwood said. “TEEX also worked with us to modify the course curriculum to make it more relevant for the medical students.”

The College of Medicine will offer the Leadership and Teamwork in Wilderness and Disaster Medicine course again later this month, and the students will participate in the Disaster Medical Specialist class at Disaster City on April 27-May 1. Sherwood said the next class will be comprised of fourth-year medical students and students from the Texas A&M College of Nursing. He said the College of Medicine plans to offer the elective course each year.

“This program is a good laboratory for developing team skills,” Sherwood said. “Throughout healthcare, people work in teams, and good teamwork improves patient outcomes.”

Watch video of night rescue scenario on facebook.

Brian Blake, Communications Director
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Will Welch
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