American Academy of Disaster Medicine Advocates Making Disaster Medicine Every Physician’s Second Specialty

May 25, 2011

Tampa – The recent devastation by tornados in Missouri demonstrates disasters can strike anywhere, anytime and in many forms as evidenced by recent events in the U.S. and around the world. Because local physicians are often among the first responders, the American Academy of Disaster Medicine advocates for disaster medicine to become 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 David McCann, MD, MPH, FAASFP, president elect of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc. (AAPS), and a founding member of the American Board of Disaster Medicine (ABODM). “All too often, physicians’ well-meaning attempts to assist in cases of disaster such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan lead to more pandemonium due to a lack of disaster medicine training.”

The recent May 5, 2011 Department of Health & Human Services report shows that the majority of healthcare institutions have an emergency response plan which concentrates on communication efforts across hospitals, government agencies and emergency managers – but this only represents half of the disaster preparedness needed. In order for a disaster preparedness plan to be effective in caring for the victims of various disasters, a capability to mobilize physicians trained in disaster medicine is a necessity and one the nation is currently lacking.

The need for trained disaster medicine physicians is one that is not just a national need but a global one as well. Because the U.S. is looked upon as a global leader, the American Academy of Disaster Medicine believes that it is our collective responsibility to work with national and international partners to develop a physician mobilization plan and to advocate for disaster medicine training – going far as to make it every physician’s second specialty.

ABODM, the world’s first physician board certification in Disaster Medicine, has worked to fulfill a pressing need as the government requires a mechanism to identify those physicians who have the requisite knowledge and skill to be involved in disaster planning and preparedness activities.

AADM believes that by building awareness and developing this area of medical specialization, it will undoubtedly result in a significant diminution of morbidity and mortality in all kinds of disasters in future years.

The American Academy of Disaster Medicine promotes the practice of disaster health care, ensuring that all physicians are aware and prepared to effectively respond to future disasters either natural or man-made. AADM is an affiliate academy of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc., the governing body of the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) that certifies both allopathic and osteopathic physicians in 17 specialties including disaster medicine. Learn more at

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On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
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Integrative Medicine
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Internal Medicine
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