Robert J. Mitchell, M.D., FACOG
Jefferson Medical College
Director, Community Disaster Preparedness and Response
A Philadelphia, PA native, Dr. Mitchell trekked to the Seattle, WA area in 1984 where he delivered 3500+ babies over a busy obstetrical career. Training and time-acquired wisdom solidified for him a basic premise – safe labors and healthy-baby deliveries depend heavily on leadership, trust and highly-reliable teamwork with staff and colleagues in responding to urgent situations necessitating astute assessment and rapid, rehearsed intervention. Caring for his patients like family, he was passionate about equipping them for nature’s unpredictability through informative, conversational prenatal stewardship, enlisting their ownership and active participation to achieve the best possible pregnancy outcome.
Choosing to retire in 2002, his life of professional service to his community took an unexpected turn when he agreed to assist with the hospital’s emergency preparedness program, an area wherein his Labor & Delivery experience and operational tempo would serve him well. The Nation’s 9/11 terrorism wounds still raw and assaulting his psyche, Dr. Mitchell pursued an eighteen-month tour of preparation for his new assignment, journeying to study and train in such places as USAMRIID (biologic weapons), USAMRICD (chemical weapons), the CDC (Strategic National Stockpile), the Nevada Test Site (radiologic operations), Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base (urban conflict/radiologic response training), Center for Domestic Preparedness at Anniston/Ft. McClellan (CBRNE/DECON and Healthcare Leadership) and New Mexico Tech for bomb and IED response. Ongoing training and tireless study over the past 14 years has equipped Dr. Mitchell to share informed insights on numerous disaster and emergency response planning groups as well as through dynamic, creative instruction in areas of Incident Command, Basic Disaster Life Support, medical triage and healthcare disaster readiness.
Current projects are driven by his fervent belief that community self-reliance in disaster is crucial in the aftermath’s first 96 hours when traditional response agencies may be stretched thin or unavailable. Modelling the historic, ever-ready Revolutionary War Minutemen, and building on their strategic and tactical training and experience acquired while serving our country, Dr. Mitchell has begun recruiting locally-residing military Veterans. This initiative, hailed as the Disaster Medicine Project (DMP), together with a local non-profit Veteran advocacy group, Operation Military Family, is recruiting Vets to stand up a trusted, organic, capable, rapid-response asset always ready to support or assist in such areas as chaos management, austere survival, shelter management, decontamination, triage, resource/volunteer management, communications, family relief-reunification, evacuation and more…a community-comprised disaster response force-multiplier. He strongly adheres to the concept initial disaster response is “local”; therefore, multiple levels of local, quick-acting, trained response will save lives.
In a parallel DMP undertaking, a unique, civilian-military collaboration, Dr. Mitchell is assisting Madigan Army Medical Center/Joint Base Lewis-McChord in designing content-rich, 60-minute training modules intended to immerse each hospital department in crisis thinking through muscle-memory inducing iterations fostering a culture of safety, disaster awareness and crisis readiness while at the same time improving day-to-day operational system efficiency.
Dr. Mitchell is proud to serve alongside his new extended “family”…the fire service, EMS, law enforcement, the military and Veterans with whom he has the distinct honor to plan and rehearse for the worst. “By fostering whole-community participation through innovative, joint endeavors, our entire ‘response community’ becomes familiar with the methodologies, expectations, equipment, and people involved in disaster response while building the necessary trust to stand side-by-side in the face of unimaginable danger in high consequence events.”