When disasters such as the typhoon in the Philippines occur, medical teams from around the world mobilize to send help. But these missions tend to be large and slow to deploy.
"We recognized the need for a small, nimble team — one that stayed in a state of readiness with pre-planned equipment and pharmaceuticals so it could be out the door within six hours," says Bob Norris, MD, who together with fellow emergency medicine surgeon Paul Auerbach, MD, created the Stanford Emergency Medicine Program for Emergency Response (SEMPER).
Today, SEMPER has 50 volunteers, all of whom use their own paid time off to train and deploy. The SEMPER program holds regular training workshops that allow its members to develop and hone the skills needed to treat large numbers of victims in the austere, chaotic environment of a disaster area. The team also participates in two local and one state disaster drill each year.
"I firmly believe having people trained in this regard makes the institution stronger," says Colin Bucks, MD, associate director of SEMPER. "If we have a local disaster where we have to treat patients in an austere situation, there are folks here on the ground with this type of training."
The recent deployment to the Philippines was SEMPER’s first official mission, and it differed from traditional medical relief because the team saw very little major trauma. Instead, the SEMPER crew provided support to the disrupted health care system, giving the local staff the opportunity to recover and regroup.
"We set up underneath tarps in front of their clinics and took care of their patients," says Bucks, who estimates that the team saw more than 4,500 patients in just eight days.
For more information about SEMPER, go to semper.stanford.edu.