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August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s Devastation and ASHP’s Efforts

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

THE AFTERMATH AND ONGOING EFFECTS of Hurricane Harvey have been truly devastating to many of the citizens of the Gulf Coast of Texas. I know that we are all extending our heartfelt sympathies and concern for the families, friends, and communities impacted by this devastating event.

We at ASHP have been in ongoing contact with ASHP affiliate the Texas Society of Health-System Pharmacists (TSHP). We are also hearing directly from our members in Texas, some of whom have been directly affected by this catastrophic event. The stories are both frightening and compelling, including from members who have continued to provide round-the-clock care to their patients while their loved ones are dealing with flooding and evacuations. It’s a true reminder about the fragility of life and the power of Mother Nature, as well as the selfless and vital roles that pharmacists play as the medication therapy experts on the interprofessional team at all times, including during times of crisis.

Given the catastrophic nature of this terrible event, ASHP will be making a cash donation to the Texas Hospital Association (THA) Employee Assistance Fund, along with a dollar-for-dollar match for our ASHP staff members who also wish to contribute. ASHP will also make available various ASHP products and services on an in-kind basis. THA created the Employee Assistance Fund for hospital employees whose lives have been impacted by the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, and 100 percent of the donations will go to those who were affected. There are, of course, many charities that ASHP members and others can consider contributing to, some of which are included in this list from National Public Radio.

ASHP stands ready to assist in any way we can. We will remain in ongoing contact with our affiliate, TSHP, and our members in the Gulf Coast area, and we will keep you up-to-date as new developments arise. ASHP also continues to monitor Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Louisiana and is in touch with our affiliate, the Louisiana Society of Health-System Pharmacists, and our members in Louisiana. We will be prepared to assist if the situation in Louisiana escalates.

I know that we, as pharmacists, members of ASHP, and citizens of this great country, all stand together with our colleagues and their families and friends, and all members of the Gulf Coast communities that were affected by this terrible storm. Please continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers, and do whatever you can to provide support through whatever means.




June 1, 2010

Uncle Sam Wants YOU for Disaster Relief

AS NEWS SPREADS OF THE DEVASTATION wrought by the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile this winter, many pharmacists wondered what they could do to help. One option was joining the National Disaster Medical System, which is part of the U.S. Federal Response Plan. Responding to a disaster or other emergency is grueling work, but pharmacists who are healthy and can pass a background check can qualify to be on a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) or an International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT).

DMAT personnel provide care ranging from triage to preparing patients for evacuation. Although DMATs are designed primarily to provide help in their own regions, they also assist in other parts of the country as needed and may deploy to disaster sites around the world, usually in conjunction with an IMSuRT.

Can You Rough It?

Erasmo (Ray) Mitrano, M.S.

Serving on a DMAT or an IMSuRT is fulfilling, but it is no easy task, according to Shannon Manzi, Pharm.D., team leader for emergency services and combined programs at Children’s Hospital Boston. Manzi is a member of DMAT MA-1 and has deployed on seven missions, most recently to Haiti.

“You have to be very flexible,” she said, noting that you may not have a bed to sleep in or a shower for several weeks, you eat military MREs (meals ready to eat), and often work 12- to 16-hour shifts.

“You dig toilets, carry boxes, and set up tents,” Manzi said. “Whether you’re a brain surgeon, a medical technician, or a pharmacist, it’s all the same job, all in a very austere environment.” There are three IMSuRTs, each of which has a rapid-assembly hospital that includes mobile equipment and supplies. IMSuRT personnel stabilize patients, perform surgery, provide critical care, and prepare patients for evacuation.

To an untrained eye, field pharmacies may look like organized chaos, but they serve DMATs and IMSuRTs pharmacists well.

Members of DMATs and IMSuRTs are activated for two weeks at a time. During their deployments, members are considered federal employees, and their regular jobs are protected by federal law.

Creativity Part of Job Description
During deployments, pharmacists must use all of their pharmacy knowledge and problem-solving skills, according to Manzi. “Items may be in limited supply, and there may be no sterile area. You may end up rationing or using things in novel ways,” she said. For example, in Haiti, Manzi created rehydration solution with the salt and sugar packets that came with the MREs.

Shannon Manzi, Pharm.D., far left, assists a medical team during her recent deployment in Haiti.

The work is not without its risks, said Erasmo (Ray) Mitrano, M.S., associate chief of pharmacy, inpatient operations, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who deployed with IMSuRT East to Haiti.

“It’s easy to forget about yourself in that kind of situation, but if you don’t eat, drink, and get rest, then you aren’t going to be able to help others,” he said, recalling how several team members in Haiti had to be treated for dehydration.

If you are interested in joining a team, Mitrano suggests that you talk to someone who is already a member. “Get an overall understanding of what the commitment really is,” he said. “It’s an honor to serve, but getting onto a team is a long, involved process.”

Indeed, it is not something that pharmacists can just sign up for and start doing. A candidate must either be sponsored by an existing team member or have two professional letters of recommendation. This is followed by several interviews and background checks.

Shannon Manzi, Pharm.D.

Candidates accepted and assigned to a team then undergo extensive training that includes incident command courses, online courses, and hands-on instruction in assembling equipment and setting up field hospitals. All told, the entire process can take nine months.

“We do need a bigger pool of pharmacists,” Mitrano said. “If you are interested, now would be a great time to look into it—before disaster strikes.” 

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