Comparison of Disaster Medicine Education in Emergency Medicine Residency and Emergency Medical Services Fellowship in the United States

Sara P. Sandifer, Bryan J. Wexler, Avram Flamm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Disaster Medicine (DM) is defined by Koenig and Shultz as the disciplines and organizations involved with governmental public health, public and private medical delivery including Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and governmental emergency management. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) sets curriculum requirements and standards for Emergency Medicine (EM) residencies and EMS fellowships, which include a limited portion of the DM curriculum topics recommended by the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine (SAEM). The ACGME does not currently approve DM fellowships, as DM is not recognized as a subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). This lack of nationally standardized guidelines for DM training leads to variability in disaster-related knowledge and skills, even among physicians trained by ACGME-accredited programs. Study Objective: The objective of this study is to analyze the DM components covered in EM residency and EMS fellowship in the United States and compare those to SAEM DM fellowship curriculum guidelines. Methods: The DM curriculum components of EM residencies and EMS fellowships were evaluated, using the SAEM DM curriculum as a control. Overlapping topics, as well as gaps between the programs, were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: Of the DM curriculum components developed by SAEM, EMS fellowship covered 15 of 19 (79%) major curriculum components and 38 of 99 (38%) subtopics, while EM residency covered seven of 19 major curriculum components (37%) and 16 of 99 (16%) subtopics. Together, EM residency and EMS fellowship cover 16 of 19 (84%) major curriculum components and 40 of 99 (40%) subtopics. Conclusion: While EMS fellowship covers a large portion of the DM major curriculum components recommended by SAEM, there are several important DM subtopics that are not covered either in EM residency or EMS fellowship. Furthermore, there is no standardization for the depth and manner that DM topics are addressed in either curriculum. Time constraints in EM residency and EMS fellowship may also prevent extensive review of important DM topics. Disaster Medicine covers a distinct body of knowledge, represented in the curriculum subtopics, that are not covered in either EM residency or EMS fellowship. The development of an ACGME-accredited DM fellowship and recognition of DM as a distinct subspecialty could allow for more effective DM graduate medical education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-383
Number of pages6
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 3 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency

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