Edmonds-based Disaster Medicine Project teaches across the border

    From left: Mike Schindler of Operation Military Family; Sukhi Atti, M.D.; Robert Mitchell, M.D.; Peter Simpson of iRespond.org; Mary Jo Kintner, M.D.; Janette Turner (photo courtesy Nancy Mitchell).

    Edmonds is home to the Disaster Medicine Project, an organization seeking to improve hospital and provider response during disasters. Edmonds resident Robert Mitchell, M.D., spearheads the all-volunteer organization, and his local home is serving as base for a training rotation of physicians from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Fellowship in Disaster Medicine, an affiliated Fellowship of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Recently he hosted Sukhi Atti, M.D., from Canada.

    “I was a resident in the New York City area during Hurricane Sandy,” said Atti, when asked why she was interested in disaster medicine. “And I spent time helping out in Nepal.” Her background led to an interest in helping people get treatment during chaos.

    Atti is here spending a jam-packed week learning first-hand from local, Mitchell-selected experts about collaboration, leadership and responding to disaster with medical care in disaster-ravaged settings. Mitchell’s organization has been on the ground at Oso, and is currently building connections with everyone from military officials to health care providers, first responders, and local concrete contractors. “We’ll need people who can get through when the roads are in chaos,” said Mitchell.

    Mitchell has also teamed with Mike Schindler of Operation Military Family to bring veterans into the fold. “Veterans are in every community,” said Schindler, “and they have already received training. Plus they want to give back.” According to the team, it makes sense to have veterans be part of disaster response in their own communities.

    According to Mitchell, hospitals will be the core where people will flock in time of disaster. But hospitals may not have access to medical records, and may not know which people have been treated with which medicines. That is where Peter Simpson’s nonprofit, iRespond, comes into the picture.

    iRespond is using eye recognition technology, which can be used to track patients during an emergency or disaster without access to the internet. This biometric technology can also be used to ensure a medical provider is who he says he is and has the correct credentials. The technology, according to Mitchell, can help right here when medical clinics and hospitals are affected in disasters.

    Dr Atti with Oso Fire Chief Willie Harper (right next to her) and Arlington Deputy Fire Chief Tom Cooper in the foreground (back to camera) discussing the response, long-term community impact and lessons learned from the devastating SR530 mudslide
    Dr Atti with Oso Fire Chief Willie Harper and Arlington Deputy Fire Chief Tom Cooper (back to camera) observe the site of the 2014 mudslide that killed 43 people (photo courtesy Robert Mitchell).

    The key will be getting the Disaster Medicine Project knowledge, training, and technology into all communities, so they are prepared with a nimble and trusted set of responders. In the past, Red Cross was thought to be that group, but disasters in Oso and Haiti revealed the weakness of hoping for a quick global or Federal response. Mitchell believes disaster preparedness must be local, trained, and connected. By welcoming Dr. Atti, Mitchell is connecting disaster preparedness training across the border.

    Dr Atti with WA State Emergency Management Division Director Robert Ezelle in the 2nd floor conference room which overlooks the Emergency Operations Center discussing the recent Cascadia Rising exercise (photo courtesy Robert Mitchell).
    Dr Atti and WA State Emergency Management Division Director Robert Ezelle discuss the recent Cascadia Rising exercise (photo courtesy Robert Mitchell).

    For more information on local disaster preparedness, see this article on the Edmonds Community College town hall.

    –Janette Turner


    1. Thank you Robert Mitchell for all you do. Loved chatting with you about your involvements while you were at the volleyball gym with Mckenzie.




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