August 24, 2001

Health care providers prepare for terrorism attack

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From left, Keith Hopkins and first-year medical students Racquel Duval and Rasheeda Stephens enjoy the entertainment. (photos by Dana Johnson)

Health care providers prepare for terrorism attack

“They believe killing us is good.”

It was a chilling statement made by Dr. Madison Patrick, describing terrorists’ hatred towards Americans. Patrick spoke to more than 35 doctors, nurses and administrators who recently gathered on the Vanderbilt/VA campus for a class on terrorism response.

Patrick added that it wouldn’t be a matter of “if” but “when” a mass casualty terrorist event would hit the United States. To prepare for this event, health care providers must be ready to handle the influx of patients from a possible biological, nuclear or chemical attack.

Patrick, a retired military Colonel, has headed numerous Army MASH teams, including during Desert Storm where chemicals were used on U.S. troops. He now spends much of his time teaching other physicians how to treat mass casualty patients.

“We have to be prepared,” Patrick said. “And that means doing things a little different and being able to recognize when one of these possible attacks hits your community.”

The eight-hour course, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice, was a “Train-the-Trainer” course so the participants could take the materials back to their respective hospitals and train fellow employees. It was the second time a course like this was held at Vanderbilt.

Participants came from hospitals across Tennessee including the Memphis VA, Nashville VA, Southern Hills, Vanderbilt, Centennial, Baptist, Nashville Health Department, State of Tennessee Health Department, St. Thomas, and the Vanderbilt School of Nursing.

Students learned what types of terrorism to expect, how to recognize potential signs of a biological attack, and the treatment necessary for victims of radiation exposure, chemical exposure and biological agents.