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City Hosting Physicians’ Disaster-Training Program

July 21, 2008

By Randy Griffith, Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Jul. 21–Johnstown’s connection to natural disasters makes it an ideal location to train disaster-response physicians, a national expert says.

“The history of disasters in Johnstown is so strong, the name is synonymous with disaster response,” said Dr. Michael Allswede, director of Memorial Hospital’s new emergency medicine residency program.

Eight physicians have begun training in the four-year program, with an emphasis on disaster response and bioterrorism.

A nationally known expert in the field, Allswede works as a bioterrorism consultant for the United Nations and the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol. He’s an author of Interpol’s “Biological Pre-Planning and Incident Response Guide” for law-enforcement agencies worldwide.

He also has co-authored a proposed set of national training standards to create a disaster medicine subspecialty for doctors.

If approved by the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians, the subspecialty will be incorporated with Memorial’s newest residency program, Allswede said.

“It’s a national issue to develop disaster medicine,” Allswede said. “We’ve gotten the agreement and support of the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians to develop the minimum standards.”

Johnstown’s historical association with natural disasters can help bring a national spotlight to the program, Allswede said.

Memories of the 1995 bombing at Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building helped the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City become a national center for emergency responder training, he said.

Creating a new emergency medicine training program from the ground up allowed Memorial’s doctors to look at specialized training, said Dr. Richard Wozniak, director of the hospital’s graduate medical education program.

“It gives us a unique opportunity to develop a program with a focus on disaster medicine,” Wozniak said.

In addition to setting new standards for disaster training, the residency should help address a shortage of emergency room doctors in the region, Wozniak said.

“There have been surveys that show that residents tend to stay and practice where they were trained,” Wozniak said.

“This is one way we hope to offset the future anticipated shortage of physicians serving areas such as ours. We know that the new Emergency Medicine Residency program will be such an asset to this organization and to the communities served by Conemaugh Health System.”

Disaster response training includes three areas: Improving pre-hospital care in the field, planning for mass casualties and medical detection of criminal actions such as bioterrorism poisonings, Allswede said.

The initial class of residents is a diverse group from across the country. Members are:

–Dr. Christopher Hughes, a graduate of Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, says training in Johnstown will help him focus on community and compassion.

–Dr. Zachariah Patrick was an emergency medical technician with the Navy combat search and rescue mission team.

–Johnstown-native Dr. Matthew Perry is a graduate of Virginia Tech and the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He recently completed his osteopathic internship at Memorial.

–Dr. Herbert Schiffer graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and has experience as a firefighter and paramedic.

–Dr. Alan Shapiro grew up in Pittsburgh and graduated from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has served as a paramedic, paramedic instructor and a research associate at UPMC’s Department of Emergency Medicine.

–Dr. Brittney Shook is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed her internship at Memorial.

–Dr. Ryan Shook is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his internship at Memorial and had research on the health effects of cellular phone usage published in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine.

–Dr. Will Stubbs of Atlanta is a graduate of Morehouse College and Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has experience in inner-city community activities and plans to become a medical faculty member.

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Copyright (c) 2008, Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

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