Skip to main content

Disaster Curricula in Medical Education: Pilot Survey

  • Jared Smith (a1), Matthew J. Levy (a1), Edbert B. Hsu (a1) (a2) and J. Lee Levy (a1) (a2) (a3)
Abstract Introduction

An understanding of disaster medicine and the health care system during mass-casualty events is vital to a successful disaster response, and has been recommended as an integral part of the medical curriculum by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). It has been documented that medical students do not believe that they have received adequate training for responding to disasters. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine the inclusion of disaster medicine in the required course work of medical students at AAMC schools in the United States, and to identify the content areas addressed.


An electronic on-line survey was developed based upon published core competencies for health care workers, and distributed via e-mail to the education liaison for each medical school in the United States that was accredited by the AAMC. The survey included questions regarding the inclusion of disaster medicine in the medical school curricula, the type of instruction, and the content of instruction.


Of the 29 (25.2%) medical schools that completed the survey, 31% incorporated disaster medicine into their medical school curricula. Of those schools that included disaster medicine in their curricula, 20.7% offered disaster material as required course work, and 17.2% offered it as elective course work. Disaster medicine topics provided at the highest frequency included pandemic influenza/severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS, 27.5%), and principles of triage (10.3%). The disaster health competency included most frequently was the ability to recognize a potential critical event and implement actions at eight (27.5%) of the responding schools.


Only a small percentage of US medical schools currently include disaster medicine in their core curriculum, and even fewer medical schools have incorporated or adopted competency-based training within their disaster medicine lecture topics and curricula.

> Smith J , Levy MJ , Hsu EB , Levy JL . Disaster Curricula in Medical Education: Pilot Survey. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2012;27(5):1-3.

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Jennifer Lee Levy, MD Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine 5801 Smith Ave., Suite 3220, Baltimore, Maryland 21209 USA E-mail
Hide All
1. Association of American Medical Colleges. Training Future Physicians on Weapons of Mass Destruction: Report of the Expert Panel on Bioterrorism Education for Medical Students; Washington, DC: 2003.
2. Markenson, D, DiMaggio, C, Redlener, I. Preparing health professions students for terrorism, disaster, and public health emergencies: core competencies. Acad Med. 2005;80(6):517-526.
3. Silenas, R, Akins, R, Parrish, A, Edwards, J. Developing disaster preparedness competence: an experiential learning exercise for multiprofessional education. Teach Learn Med. 2008;20(1):62-68.
4. Number of US Medical Schools Teaching Selected Topics 2004-2005. Association of American Medical Colleges Web site. Accessed December 1, 2009.
5. Kaiser, HE, Barnett, DJ, Hsu, EB, Kirsch, TD, James, JJ. Subbarao I: Perspectives of future physicians on disaster medicine and public health preparedness: challenges of building a capable and sustainable auxiliary medical workforce. Disaster Med Pub Health Prep. 2009;3(4):210-216.
6. Hsu, EB, Thomas, TL, Bass, EB, Whynne, D, Kelen, GD. Green GB: Healthcare worker competencies for disaster training. BMC Med Educ. 2006;6:19.
7. Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Emergency events database/EM-DAT. Accessed June 2, 2010.
8. Kaji, AH. A disaster medicine curriculum for medical students. Teach Learn Med. 2010;22(2):116-122.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
  • ISSN: 1049-023X
  • EISSN: 1945-1938
  • URL: /core/journals/prehospital-and-disaster-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 62 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 403 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.