Temple Emergency Action Core helps prepare students for emergencies with mock disasters

Students at the medical school undergo emergency trials under the watch of Dr. Manish Garg.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans 10 years ago, many Temple medical students felt inspired to make a difference. The search for champions of global medicine, disaster expertise and emergency medicine led them to Dr. Manish Garg’s office.

“Those are my passions,” Garg said. “Those are the differences I make.”

Garg has been running Temple Emergency Action Core (TEAC) ever since. His responsibilities extend far beyond the classroom.

A clinically practicing emergency medicine doctor at Temple Hospital, Garg is the senior associate residency program director for the emergency medicine training program, assistant dean for global medicine at the medical school and does research for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on emergent infectious diseases.

“I try to be the quadruple threat,” Garg said, laughing.

When a large disaster strikes, TEAC aims to prepare for the aftermath of the situation.

“There’s always a context of insecurity immediately after a disaster,” Garg said.

Garg puts a group of first-year students through a disaster mock simulation trial.

“It is unbelievable to see how much they organize and are mobilized,” Garg said. “It is important for me to see how they assemble and how they approach it.”

Selected students are given a list of symptoms to act out, while remaining students are given a scenario and told to work together to triage patients in the best way possible.

The students have to identify patients, as deceased, emergent or wounded. Students tag patients depending on their statuses. Garg said some patients receive “blue or gray tags if they are inevitably going to die no matter what we do.”

Garg finds it particularly sad for beginning students when they have to learn about the “blue or gray tag” because “you think in medicine you can do something for everybody, but sometimes it’s not ultimately up to you,” Garg said.

“In these scenarios you have to do the most for the most, and there are some difficult decisions that have to be made,” he added.

Still, Garg said students enjoy the mock trials.

“They enjoy the entropy of it,” Garg said. “We have some exciting things that happen. We do have make up, simulaids like a mask that gives the appearance of a chemical burn, a leg so it looks like an amputation that can squirt blood but I try to keep it clean.”

After trials, students gather and debrief and decide if patients were treated correctly and if the situation was handled in the best possible manner.

Alyssa Green is a current intern at Temple Hospital under Garg and a former medical student who took part in TEAC.

When looking back at her experience through the program, Green recalls being “naive to how often this situation really does unfold, and I think it was a good dose of reality.”

Green doesn’t believe the topic affected her career choice but it made her “realize that this was a topic [she] should be paying more attention to.”

Garg said he believes teaching medical residents and students emergency procedures encourages them to become more efficient.

“These are things medical students are never asked, because they show up at the hospital, the equipment is always where it is, and somebody is making these decisions for them,” Garg said.

“You would be blown away at how well our students and our residents are prepared,” he added.

TEAC has made trips to multiple countries, like Panama, Honduras and El Salvador. Some of the disaster trips are funded through the Albert M. Greenfield Foundation.

Garg believes TEAC training will prepare his students for real emergencies.

“Not only do I want to teach them medical knowledge skills, but I want to invest into them as a professional,” Garg said.

“Rarely in medical school do we talk about strategies to help your leadership or help you be a better presenter or a better public speaker,” he added.

Jane Babian can be reached at jane.babian@temple.edu

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