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Letters to the Editor  |   May 2006
Osteopathic Physicians and Disaster Relief
Author Affiliations
  • BRIAN KLOSS
    Buffalo, NY
  • MATTHEW J. LEVY
    Fair Lawn, NJ
Article Information
Disaster Medicine
Letters to the Editor   |   May 2006
Osteopathic Physicians and Disaster Relief
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2006, Vol. 106, 306. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2006.106.5.306
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2006, Vol. 106, 306. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2006.106.5.306
To the Editor:  
In light of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I wanted to inform the osteopathic medical community about volunteer opportunities available to physicians and other healthcare workers through the nation's Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs). 
A DMAT is a group of professional and paraprofessional medical personnel supported by a cadre of logistical and administrative staff that is designed to provide medical care during times of natural disaster or after mass-casualty events. These DMATs, which operate under the guidance of the National Disaster Medical System, a subdivision of the Department of Homeland Security, deploy to disaster sites with sufficient supplies and equipment for a 72-hour period, and provide medical care at a fixed or temporary site. In mass-casualty incidents, DMAT responsibilities include patient triage, basic medical care, and (when injuries are too severe to treat locally or onsite) patient evacuation. The DMATs supplement local medical care until other federal and/or contract resources can be mobilized or until the disaster situation has resolved. Members of DMATs are initially volunteers, but they become paid employees of the federal government once their respective team has been activated. 
Each team recruits members independently and has openings at different times throughout the year. Physicians, physician assistants, paramedics, and nurses are often in high demand. Every DMAT could benefit from the experience and training of an osteopathic physician. 
In August 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the first author (B.K.) was deployed with the New Jersey DMAT to provide relief in Gulfport, Miss. This author (B.K.) is a licensed physician assistant and a third-year osteopathic medical student at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–School of Osteopathic Medicine (Stratford). The second author (M.J.L.), a fourth-year osteopathic medical student, works as a deputy commander and paramedic for the team and is a student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania. Brian Kloss has been involved with the New Jersey-1 DMAT since early 2002, and Matthew J. Levy has been involved with the team since 1998. 
We are both very grateful for having had the opportunity to serve our country at a time of need and are appreciative of our respective universities for granting us the allowances necessary to participate in this service. Both of us look forward to serving as DMAT physicians at the conclusion of our residencies. 
We encourage any physician interested in volunteering with the National Disaster Medical System and DMATs to visit http://www.oep-ndms.dhhs.gov and http://www.nj1dmat.org for more information.