Humberto Reyes, MD
The response of medical students, young physicians, and other health professionals to the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Chile provides important lessons about health care delivery during disasters and about the development of professionalism. Tertiary and secondary care of victims of these disasters was possible because local and national resources were available and field hospitals provided by Chile's armed forces and foreign countries replaced damaged hospitals. However, primary care of persons living on the outskirts of towns and in small villages and coves that were destroyed and isolated by the disaster required the involvement of volunteer groups that were largely composed of students and other young members of the health professions, all of whom were motivated by solidarity, compassion, and social commitment.
This experience, similar to previous catastrophes in Chile and elsewhere, reinforces that medical and other health professional schools must instill in graduates an understanding that the privileges of being a health professional come with responsibilities to society. Beyond providing high-quality scientific and technological education, curricula in these schools should include training that enables graduates to meaningfully contribute in the setting of unexpected disasters and that nurtures a sense of responsibility to do so.
Medical students and physicians in training should understand that they have a social responsibility in addition to responsibility for individual patients.
The broad social role of the medical profession is a competence that all medical schools should develop in their students.
Young physicians can provide much-needed care during disasters.
Undergraduate curricula should adequately consider training in disaster medicine, including psychological support for the initial symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Undergraduate teaching should include lessons on teamwork, adult leadership, and communication abilities to integrate multiprofessional teams.
Other health professionals should also adopt these social responsibilities in their training.
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Reyes H. Students' Response to Disaster: A Lesson for Health Care Professional Schools. Ann Intern Med. ;153:658–660. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-153-10-201011160-00009
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(10):658-660.
Education and Training, Emergency Medicine.
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