Pitt's Medical School Integrates Bioterrorism Into Curriculum

Bioterrorism training at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School was a topic of conversation recently at the Association of American Medical Colleges' (AAMC) annual meeting, where representatives from the nation's medical schools met to discuss the best way to integrate bioterrorism training into their curriculum.

After Sept. 11, the AAMC urged medical schools across the country to teach students how to respond to bioterrorism and identify a possible terrorist attack.

"At Pitt, we have been training our students since 2000 how to identify and treat patients who have been exposed to terroristic attacks," said John Mahoney, M.D., assistant dean for medical education, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "At the time when we developed the curriculum, we realized that weapons of mass destruction were one of the greatest emerging terroristic threats, but students were either unaware or complacent about the threat they posed. This indicated to us that teaching this information to our students was essential to ensure public safety in the event of a biological, chemical or nuclear attack."

The University of Pittsburgh's curriculum is based on the premise that all physicians have the potential to detect an unusual or suspicious pattern of illness, as would present itself in a terrorist attack, and initiate action. According to the school, educating all students about conditions caused by biological, chemical and nuclear warfare is essential to public safety.

Students are taught how to identify, triage and treat patients exposed to biological, chemical and radiological terrorism, emerging infectious diseases and environmental pollution and are taught about food and water source safety, the impact of pharmaceutical treatments, terroristic hoaxes and technologic threats to the continuity of public and health services.

"As future physicians, our students may face public health threats unlike those seen by any other generation," said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, and senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences, University of Pittsburgh. "We have always seen it as our responsibility to prepare our students for most situations they may face. The integration of bioterrorism training into the curriculum was one way of living up to that responsibility."

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