Development of a disaster preparedness curriculum for medical students: a pilot study of incorporating local events into training opportunities

Am J Disaster Med. 2015 Winter;10(1):51-9. doi: 10.5055/ajdm.2015.0188.


Objective: Contemporary disasters, like the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, have piqued the interest of medical students in disaster preparedness. The topic is also a requirement of undergraduate medical education.(1) Yet current literature suggests that disaster preparedness education is lacking. Our objective was to pilot a curriculum to augment medical students' disaster preparedness education by marshalling local resources to provide practical hands-on experiences.

Design: This pilot curriculum consisted of lectures; simulations; asynchronous learning materials; a large-scale, regional disaster exercise; and preparation for and participation in a real-time mass gathering. Outcomes were measured by student performance on written tests and evaluations of each activity.

Setting: Academic Health Center with associated medical school.

Participants: Fifty-two medical students participated in at least one of the six activities during this voluntary pilot program. Premedical students and residents (n=57) participated in some activities.

Results: Forty-one medical students took either the pretest or the post-test over the curriculum. Only eight students took both. A paired t test comparing pretest to post-test scores using imputed missing data (t=-11.72, df=40, p≤0.001) was consistent with an analysis using only complete data (t=-2.35, df=7, p=0.05), implying that student scores improved significantly over time. Evaluations indicated a student preference for hands-on over didactic or independent learning activities.

Conclusions: This pilot curriculum was designed to capitalize on practical hands-on training opportunities for our medical students, including participation in a disaster exercise and a mass-gathering event. These opportunities provided effective and engaging disaster preparedness education.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Civil Defense / education*
  • Curriculum*
  • Disaster Planning*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Development
  • Students, Medical