UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program

Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters
Los Angeles, CA
Dr. Kristi Koenig
Student Name: James W. Terbush MD
Year: 2005

The UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters; an opportunity for professional development within the medical disaster response community.

This field study experience initially was an opportunity to participate in a project with colleagues from the US Navy’s Office of Homeland Security (NMOHLS) to develop an emergency preparedness analysis tool called the MCAST, (Medical Capabilities Assessment and Status Tool). The objective of MCAST is to provide capability and vulnerability assessments to ensure military personnel are properly organized, trained, and equipped for responding to mass casualty incidents and prepared to assist civil authority when called to do so. Of particular interest to me is that MCAST will allows for real-time status monitoring of military medical capabilities by higher headquarters for planning and response purposes in case of a domestic emergency requiring military assistance. Surprisingly for some, military resources are used in a variety of domestic emergencies each year, most recently the Florida hurricanes of the 2004 season. This mission, Military Assistance to Civil Authorities, (MACA) is one of the key coordination functions and responsibilities of the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), based out of Colorado Springs. One of the purposes of this field experience then was to help prepare me for a policy level job at US NORTHCOM. By becoming intimately familiar with the workings of MCAST, (a useful tool for policy makers and planners) I would be better in a better position to advise more senior decision makers about the capabilities and readiness of military assets in case of a major domestic emergency.

The actual venue for my field experience was the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters (CPHD). The Center facilitates interaction between public health, medicine, engineering, physical and social sciences, and emergency management. The Center offers a variety of graduate level courses through the department of Community Health Sciences (CHS) in the School of Public Health. The Center was the first program in the United States to offer multiple graduate level courses in emergency public health.

During the course of my field experience I was introduced to a number of new colleagues in emergency management and disaster preparedness. I visited the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (LADHS), Bio-terrorism Planning Group and the Terrorism Early Warning (TEW) Group. I also worked with colleagues from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency on a simulated anthrax release exercise in San Diego. As the Field experience progressed I became involved more in developing a pandemic flu plan for UCLA. This study increased my number of contacts within the wider emergency response community. All of which will be helpful in any future job. This professional development became the most important aspect of my field studies experience.

I particularly wanted to credit my assigned preceptor, Dr. Kristi Koenig who is currently the Director of Public Health Preparedness at the University of California at Irvine (UCI), Department of Emergency Medicine, a Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine and the Co-Director, Emergency Medical Services and Disaster Medical Sciences Fellowship at UCI. She was formerly the principal advisor on emergency management to the Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She is also a staff member of the UCLA, CPHD. She has been invaluable in helping me to make the necessary connections within the medical disaster response community.


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