In the immediate aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, Stanford University was asked to assemble and deploy a team of four emergency physicians and four nurses to Port-au-Prince. The team estimated its needs, collected supplies and reached the stricken city on day five after the quake. As soon as the team arrived, it began treating the approximately 800 severely injured survivors gathered at Hôpital de l’Université d’État in Port-au-Prince, and subsequently cared for approximately 2,000 patients over the ensuing 12 days. In the following weeks, additional Stanford emergency physicians and nurses responded to continue to aid relief efforts.
The more quickly injured persons receive care, the more likely they are to survive.
What if our team and others like us could have been in Haiti even a day earlier?
What if our team had the prescience to apply the scientific rigor of modern medicine while in the midst of disaster to determine the most effective and efficient care? How many more lives could be saved?
Distilled from Haiti and many other disaster experiences, Stanford’s Emergency Medicine faculty members have determined three critical actions to significantly improve disaster response and, ultimately, the number of lives saved:
1. “Load & Go” Medical Response Teams – There is a critical gap in medical care that can be filled by small, nimble emergency medical responder teams that can “load and go” into a disaster scene at a moment’s notice.
2. Disaster Education/Training – Current medical school and residency training do not adequately address the unique aspects of caring for large numbers of acutely and severely injured disaster victims in austere environments. A new curriculum needs to be created.
3. Disaster Research – A scientific approach to medical care has not been adequately applied in disaster settings, causing a paucity of data collection from which to determine best practices or upon which to base decisions. It is time to apply science to disaster medicine for the benefit of disaster victims.
Stanford has a plan to meet these challenges through preparation, education and research. It is in the process of creating the Stanford Emergency Medicine Program for Emergency Response (SEMPER – Latin: “always,” as in “always ready to respond”).