The BIDMC Fellowship in Disaster Medicine formally opens its rotation in community-based disaster mitigation, preparedness, and response as Dr. Sukhi Atti, Fellowship class of 2017, completes her 2-week rotation with Dr. Robert Mitchell and his team at the Disaster Medicine Project in Seattle Washington. The new rotation seeks to introduce our Disaster Medicine fellows to the various community-based organizations, governmental-level programs, and personnel involved in “line” preparedness for severe or catastrophic events, accomplished through facilitated and unscripted sessions of varying lengths in their respective workplace environs, with context and content driven by each contributor’s focus, job description and personal motivations. Participant-instructors include media experts, public officials, first-responders, emergency response agencies, public works, community leaders, local military, emergency managers, politicians, hospital staff, journalists and cutting-edge high-tech planners, as well as the WA State Director of Emergency Management. Uncovering soft skill-sets is a major objective, to supplement the “toolbox” carried forward by the Disaster Medicine fellows into any community, hospital, war zone, or disaster aftermath. Chaos management, leadership strategies, relationship and trust building, collaborative/innovative approaches to preparedness and planning, political hurdles, media/journalist utility, and press conference communication demands are some of the areas explored. The outcome: Enable fellows to gain an understanding of how they might integrate into and enhance planning and response for their communities, or elsewhere when called upon. PowerPoint presentations are intentionally avoided in these interview sessions. People, relationships, connectedness, and trust-building are among the primary objectives.
Dr. Atti, who hails from Vancouver Canada, said about the rotation: “It was an eye opening experience to see how policy filters down to the community level of disaster preparedness and response, and how community leaders are truly at the heart of disaster management policy implementation. It is the community leader who is the ‘unsung hero’ of disaster medicine. It became clear to me quickly that some of the biggest ways to have an impact is to be involved at the community level. Similar themes resonated throughout the entire two weeks I spent, meeting a variety of people, at different levels of disaster preparedness and response.”