Disaster training sessions benefit from AVMF sponsorship

Six state organizations prepare for zoonotic outbreaks, veterinary shortage
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The American Veterinary Medical Foundation has announced the recipients of this year's disaster training session sponsorships. The AVMF received 11 applications, and the Foundation's board approved funding for six training sessions at $5,000 each. The benefitting organizations not only demonstrated an understanding of local needs but also sought to make an impact far beyond their regions.

Dr. Sarah K. Kirk is a member of the Foundation board's grants and awards subcommittee and helped review the submissions. She said the subcommittee was impressed with the merit of all the applicants, and that it was tough to narrow the selections to six.

One of the awardees, Washington State University, will host a pet poultry practice course. The program was recently created in response to the increasing interest by local urban residents in raising their own chickens. Not only does this pose a potential influenza interface with humans but also it presents area veterinarians—most of whom are small animal practitioners—with species they don't often encounter.

The course will introduce attendees to husbandry, handling, behavior, common diseases, conditions of pet poultry, and sampling techniques.

"Some applicants were a little different. The one with the poultry was very interesting to us," Dr. Kirk said. "More and more communities have this issue of poultry. It's something for which—with this in particular—I know I had very little training in veterinary school."

Another sponsorship recipient was Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. The money received will assist with operating costs for its graduate certificate program in veterinary homeland security through distance learning.

The success of the 3-year-old online program is founded on its ability to provide remotely accessible, quality training for veterinary and allied professionals. Sixty-seven percent of the 82 current participants are veterinarians from private practice, government agencies, industry, academia, and the military. Twelve courses are available online and seven are in development. The program has had 87 participants from 30 states, Washington, D.C., Singapore, and Bermuda (see JAVMA, March 1, 2009).

Dr. Kirk said the subcommittee was interested in applicants such as Purdue because of their potential to reach so many people.

"We were looking not only at topics that would be covered but also how great an audience would be impacted. We had a couple of the awards given to VMAs working together, which is a wonderful thing to see," Dr. Kirk said.

As an example, the Minnesota VMA and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection were awarded $5,000 each to host the second Tri-State Veterinary Disaster Response Conference in LaCrosse, Wis., later this year or early next year.

The groups will hold a two-day training and organizational conference this fall or winter to talk about veterinary disaster response for large and small animals, and animal disease response. They met the first time this past April when emergency responders from Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin discussed animal issues during disasters and other emergencies (see JAVMA, June 15, 2009). The intent of this latest training session is to build on the previous conference's work and to include additional surrounding states.

Also, the Hamilton County (Tennessee) Disaster Animal Response Team will receive funding for its first Tri-State Animal Emergency Response Conference. The tri-state area of southeast Tennessee, northwest Georgia, and northeast Alabama covers 15 counties that include the Tennessee River Valley and three interstates connecting the region.

"There are many rural counties located in the tri-state area that do not have the resources to adequately respond to disaster. This resource deficiency is not only a lack of the proper equipment for responders, but it also includes a shortage of well-trained animal emergency responders," according to the team's application.

The purpose of the conference is to give animal emergency responders the training they need to develop local and county animal disaster and emergency response teams.

Other sponsorship recipients included the Wyoming Department of Health and Wyoming VMA for a joint winter meeting. The goal is to educate Wyoming veterinarians on their role before, during, and after a disaster involving a zoonotic disease. Interested physicians and other health care providers also are invited to attend, and organizers hope to double attendance from the 40 to 50 veterinary professionals who attended two similar meetings held in 2008.

Also, the Navajo Nation Veterinary & Livestock Program will receive funding for five presentations this year. Titled "Navajo Nation Emergency Response to Foreign Animal Disease," the presentations will focus on preventive health measures, action to be taken during an emergency, and the recovery period. The program serves the Navajo population of roughly 250,000 in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.