NC State Vets Lead Way in Disaster Response for Animals
Most people can picture the first responders who come to the rescue in the wake of a natural disaster. But who provides emergency help for the dogs, cats and horses that people love? And who takes care of the cows, poultry and hogs that form the backbone of animal agriculture? North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is helping to fill the need through a unique initiative that requires all of its students to receive disaster training, providing a new generation of leaders in veterinary medicine and disaster response.
“This training program is important because there is a real need to build our capacity to respond to disasters,” says Dr. Dianne Dunning, co-author of a recent study on NC State’s landmark training requirement and director of the university’s Animal Welfare, Ethics and Public Policy Program. “Emergency response is generally geared towards people, particularly at the local level. We need to protect the health of the people and the health of the animals – whether they are pets or livestock related to a region’s livelihood. We believe this training will help veterinarians respond to the needs of both people and animals.
“NC State has the only college of veterinary medicine that requires all of its students to take a formal disaster response training program, and we hope this is a model for others to follow,” Dunning says. Students, who must take the program to graduate, earn advanced state and federal disaster training certifications.
The training program deals with a variety of disaster response issues associated with a staggering array of animals. Students are taught how to work with displaced people and their pets. For example, learning how to set up and operate mobile animal shelters that can be located near emergency shelters for displaced people.
Students are also taught how to respond to an epidemic in livestock in order to stop disease from spreading – a crucial step in preventing disruption of local and regional economies that depend on animal agriculture. Preventive measures include quarantining animals, as well as ensuring that veterinarians, farmers and others don’t spread the disease on their clothes or shoes.
But the disaster training is not limited to dealing with animals – it extends to overarching planning and response. “The course gives our students the skills they need to become leaders in their communities when it comes to disaster response,” Dunning says. “The training touches on a host of skills required in the wake of a disaster: fundamental psychology, effective communication, hazardous material handling, and the ability to anticipate, identify, and respond to new needs as they crop up.”
The training program is part of the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine’s “One Medicine” philosophy, which focuses on the belief that human and animal health rely on overlapping fields of scientific and medical knowledge, and related fields of research.
The paper outlining the emergency response training program was published in the fall issue of the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education. The paper was co-authored by NC State’s Dunning, Drs. Michael Martin, Peter Cowen and Barrett Slenning, Dr. Jimmy Tickel of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Dr. Bill Gentry of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note to editors: The study abstract follows.
“Preparedness and disaster response training for veterinary students: literature review and description of the North Carolina State University Credentialed Veterinary Responder Program”
Authors: D. Dunning, M.P. Martin, P. Cowen, B.D. Slenning, North Carolina State University; J.L. Tickel, North Carolina Department of Agriculture; W. B. Gentry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Published: Fall 2009, Journal of Veterinary Medical Education
Abstract: The nation’s veterinary colleges lack the curricula necessary to meet veterinary demands for animal/public health and emergency preparedness. To this end, the authors report a literature review summarizing training programs within human/veterinary medicine. In addition, the authors describe new competency-based Veterinary Credential Responder training at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine (NCSU CVM). From an evaluation of 257 PubMed-derived articles relating to veterinary/medical disaster training, 14 fulfilled all inclusion requirements (nine were veterinary oriented; five came from human medical programs). Few offered ideas on the core competencies required to produce disaster-planning and response professionals. The lack of published literature in this area points to a need for more formal discussion and research on core competencies. Non-veterinary articles emphasized learning objectives, commonly listing an incident command system, the National Incident Management System, teamwork, communications, and critical event management/problem solving. These learning objectives were accomplished either through short-course formats or via their integration into a larger curriculum. Formal disaster training in veterinary medicine mostly occurs within existing public health courses. Much of the literature focuses on changing academia to meet current and future needs in public/animal health disaster-preparedness and careers. The NCSU CVM program, in collaboration with North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, Emergency Programs and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health, operates as a stand-alone third-year two-week core-curriculum training program that combines lecture, online, experiential, and group exercises to meet entry-level federal credentialing requirements. The authors report here its content, outcomes, and future development plans.