Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine Prepares Future Veterinarians to Respond to Crisis and Disasters

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May 13, 2022 | Glendale, AZ

As the role of the veterinarian has grown to encompass the title of “first responder,” Midwestern University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) has risen to meet that need. Nancy Bradley-Siemens, D.V.M., M.N.M, M.S., DABVP-SMP, Clinical Assistant Professor, has spent the last four years designing Midwestern University’s Veterinary Disaster Response course.

This course is a two-week elective for fourth year CVM students. The first week is spent learning how to prepare for disasters. First, students observe how to put a risk analysis report together at both the organizational and county-wide levels. This thorough, data-driven document considers socioeconomic demographics, potential evacuation sites, and statistical ideas of how many and what kinds of animals will need to be evacuated. Students get to test their knowledge of emergency preparedness by preparing a risk analysis report for Heidi’s Village, a Phoenix-based animal rescue organization.

Dr. Bradley teaches her students how to transform the Midwestern University Mobile Unit from a spay and neuter clinic into a trauma base. Utilizing that Unit, they hone their animal first aid and triage skills, while also learning about humane field euthanasia. They get to see disaster response from multiple points of views, as the course curriculum includes guest speakers from the Arizona Humane Society, as well as Dr. Ann Justice Allen, a wildlife veterinarian with Arizona Game & Fish.

During the last days of the course, students learn strategies and techniques for large animal tactical rescue and manipulation in the classroom, and then graduate to mock disaster scenarios. These staged scenes include a tipped-over horse trailer and horse (and sometimes dog) mannequins positioned so they will need tactful rescuing. Occasionally, Dr. Bradley will include a human mannequin as well, as the presence of humans changes the dynamics of the scene. Despite not knowing what they are walking into, students utilize everything they have worked on during the two-week course and manipulate all the mannequins until they are in stable positions, all while considering elements such as their environment and biohazards.

The goal of this course is to equip future veterinarians with the skills they need to be an asset in times of crisis. Through the collaborative efforts of local first responders and Midwestern University’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s advanced simulation technology, these students are thoroughly trained and ready to take on whatever might come their way.