VERMILLION, S.D. -- Dr. Matt Owens, family practice physician at the Redfield Clinic and Hospital and assistant professor at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, described a unique and innovative South Dakota disaster response program to an international audience at the National Disaster Life Support Education Consortium conference in Atlanta, Georgia on July 22. The program described by Owens trains students enrolled in various healthcare curriculums at South Dakota’s two largest universities to became part of the integrated response to large and small disasters in the state.
Developed by the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, the South Dakota State Medical Association, and the South Dakota Department of Health, the program –titled Core Disaster Life Support training- was launched in 2004 by training students at the University of South Dakota School of Medicine as disaster responders, and it has since grown to include preparing students in 11 different health care disciplines at South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota. “South Dakota is the only state in the country,” said Owens, “that recognizes and trains its medical school and healthcare students as valuable and deployable assets in the event of a disaster.”
According to Owens, the South Dakota program has attracted a great deal of interest from other states as well as other nations across the globe. “Our very practical and useful strategy of integrating the Core Disaster Life Support training course into the various health care curriculums,” he said, “is very appealing to public and academic entities and institutions from all over the country, even the world.”
In 2014, 320 students enrolled in health care professional disciplines at the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University were trained in the program. Though the training is a required curriculum component in 11 disciplines, students in those disciplines are not required to assist at a disaster.