What can I do?
The role of medical students in disaster responses
In our rapidly expanding, globalised world, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and pandemics exert an ever-increasing impact locally and internationally. Over the past decade an average of 78 000 people each year have died in natural disasters1—predicted to rise to 100 000 by 20502—and an estimated 5.4 million people died in the 1998 to 2003 Congo war alone.3
This huge impact and the fear created by high profile terrorist events such as September 11 in New York, along with the inherent threat of pandemics, leads many people to question what their role should be in the wake of a disaster.
For medical students this is an especially relevant question. With varying levels of training and experience, most medical students are ill prepared to take on important clinical roles, particularly in a stressful, post-disaster environment where they could become a hindrance. Indeed, during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Toronto, medical