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ABODM: Recent Earthquake & Hurricane Irene Demonstrate Why Every Physician Should Make Disaster Medicine Their Second Specialty

Tampa, FL – The recent destruction along the East Coast caused by the earthquake and Hurricane Irene proved, once again, how disasters can strike anytime and anywhere. These recent events affected areas not accustomed to hurricanes & earthquakes and demonstrated the need of preparedness for all types of disasters.

Just as communities prepare for the potential effects of disasters, natural or man-made, all local physicians must be prepared as well. The American Board of Disaster Medicine® (ABODM®) believes disaster medicine should be every physician’s second specialty.

“Physicians trained in disaster medicine are needed to provide medical expertise and to work in tandem with other stakeholders to create public health policies that improve both the effectiveness and availability of medical care during epidemics, terrorist attacks and natural disasters,” stated Martin E. Thornton, D.O., ABODM former chairman, as well as a disaster medicine specialist and emergency medicine physician from Aubrey, TX.

Dr. Thornton has been actively deployed for many disaster missions and his participation in rescue operations at the New Orleans International Airport after Hurricane Katrina was followed by international disaster management and consultations. Most recently, he participated in lending aid to Haiti after the devastating earthquake.

According to Dr. Thornton, the key to disaster response is good planning. Physicians need to have a plan and assemble appropriate emergency kits for potential disasters in their locality. They can begin by contacting local disaster preparedness organizations for information and the opportunity to network with other professionals to know what resources are available.

For physicians to be an asset and not a potential victim in a disaster they must be informed. They should all take a proactive approach in knowing who is responsible for implementing the community preparedness plan and who is leading their hospital preparedness plan. More importantly, they need to know how to communicate with these entities in order to be an effective physician in a disaster situation.

“All too often, physicians well-meaning attempts to assist in cases of disaster such as tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and floods lead to more pandemonium due to a lack of disaster medicine skills,” said Dr. Thornton. Rule number one in disaster medicine is, “Never become part of the disaster.”

Local leaders involved in the community and hospital preparedness planning should ask any physician who wants to get involved about their disaster medicine experience, knowledge and training.

About the American Board of Disaster Medicine

The American Board of Disaster Medicine (ABODM) comprises nationally distinguished physicians of numerous medical specialties who have comprehensive knowledge of disaster management, triage and incident command. ABODM is a member board of the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), the certifying organization of the American Association of Physician Specialists (AAPS). ABPS certifies both allopathic and osteopathic physicians in 17 specialties, including disaster medicine. Learn more at