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School of Medicine Greenville

Disaster Day Preparedness Drill

Jared Dawson and Samantha Morales kept calm and composed, despite the chaotic scene.

At a triage area against a backdrop of thick smoke and injured people from two emergency scenes, Dawson and Morales, first-year medical students at USC School of Medicine Greenville (SOMG), communicated clearly with each other and began helping patients. Although a drill, this was a major, catastrophic event, caused by a bus crashing into a marathon and a partial building collapse injuring dozens of people.    

The injured people were volunteer actors in the SOMG Disaster Day Preparedness Drill held Sept. 19. An annual capstone event for first-year medical students’ Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certification, the exercises were held at SOMG.  

The daylong event brought together more than 100  first-year medical students for a culmination of their recent EMT training. USC School of Medicine Greenville was one of the first schools in the country to integrate EMT training and certification into its first-year medical curriculum.  

At the simulation, Dawson made sure to keep checking in on mock patients, providing care and helping to keep injured patients calm, especially those wanting to rush back into the accident scene to check on others. “It was important to focus on them,” said Dawson, “to tell them we are doing everything we can . . . and ask ‘Are you OK? Can I get you anything?’”

“Some of our experience in the classroom and in EMT shifts kicked in,” added Morales.

Previously, due to COVID, the Disaster Day Drill was canceled for two years, and last year a much smaller event was held at SOMG. This year, the event focused on triage, treatment, and transport of victims.  

The annual Disaster Day Drill was started in 2012 for two main reasons.  

“One of the main reasons for starting this event was the ability to deploy 200 plus medical students in the event of a disaster in the community,” said Dr. April Buchanan, Associate Dean for Medical Education at SOMG.

Another reason for the event is to provide an opportunity for medical students to put their emergency medicine training and medical coursework to action, in a real-world simulation.  

The event brings a tense situation right before medical students, providing training that will be helpful to the future physicians, said Dr. Elizabeth Mannion, a specialist in EMS and Operational Medicine and director of the EMT program at SOMG. “Regardless of where their medical career takes them, specialists have to treat emergencies, too,” Mannion said.  

“The first procedure is to check your own pulse,” Dr. Benjamin Griffeth, an Associate Professor at SOMG and a psychiatrist at Prisma Health, told students before the first of two major simulations Sept. 19. “In this moment of ‘Holy Cow what is this!’ take care of yourself so you can care for others.”

Prisma Health Upstate partnered with SOMG on the simulations. More than 70 volunteers, including faculty, staff and community members, participated in the preparedness event. Many thanks to the Fluor Foundation for their generosity in making this valuable event possible.

The simulations involved a bus crashing into a marathon, injuring multiple people, and a secondary accident in which a parking garage structure partially collapses with debris scattered everywhere.    

For first-year medical student Jack Stomberger, a graduate of Wofford College, his role as team leader in the simulation was to step back and direct responders to where extra help was needed and answer questions from team members, as well as those injured.  

We have all worked together thus far throughout our first year of medical school, and now we put our bond and emergency skills to the test.

—SOMG First-year medical student Jack Stomberger.

“Getting this experience is awesome,” said fellow medical student Chase Abshier, “to use everything we have learned and put it to action in a crisis situation.”  

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