Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Hopkinton, MA DMAT Rhode Island 1 and Massachusetts 1 Chief Medical Officer
Approximately 250,000 people had lost their lives, about 300,000 were injured, families were separated, and tons of rubble from destroyed neighborhoods lined the streets.That was the situation when Dr. Jeff Hersh and his National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) from Massachusetts arrived in Haiti to help in the aftermath of a devasting 7.0-magnitude earthquake. “All aspects of life had been disrupted,” recounts Jeff. “Essentially everything had been compromised, including food supply, clean water, and, of course, access to medical care.” Once in the field, Jeff’s role as acting chief medical officer was to be a resource acting as the overall medical voice for the team and advocate for patients and patient care. He also supported local medical providers (for example, being a second opinion or curbside consult), and provided direct patient care.“Every time we provided patient care, we not only helped individual human beings, but we also supported the entire community as it strove to recover from the disaster. So, in a real sense, the impact of our actions in the field goes beyond just treating patients.”Over the years, Jeff has deployed many times to treat patients in the aftermath of disasters and emergencies, helping both the individuals he treats and providing relief in communities that have been battered by storms or that are responding to a public health emergency. Working with NDMS since 2004, Jeff has responded to flooding in North Dakota; Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Rita, Sandy, Matthew, Irma, Irene, Michael, Florence; and COVID-19 surges in California, Georgia, Louisiana, and Montana.“Going into the field to provide medical care is always challenging. Each situation is different, and the medical needs of the people you care for are variable and, at times, quite complex. There is always a great deal of creativity needed to figure out the best way to utilize the available resources to provide the best care possible. Our DMAT provides sophisticated medical care even under austere conditions."Jeff, like all NDMS responders, combines passion for his profession with compassion for people in trying circumstances. With each deployment, NDMS responders are heroic in their service to both individual people and to communities who need their help.
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