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November 21, 2002

Pitt bioterrorism curriculum cited as model

Last week at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting, representatives from the nation's medical schools met to discuss the best way to integrate bioterrorism training into the curriculum, examining Pitt School of Medicine's curriculum as a model.

"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, assistant dean for medical education at Pitt's medical school. "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's curriculum integrates level-appropriate content throughout the four-year medical school program. The curriculum is based on the premise that all physicians have the potential to detect an unusual or suspicious pattern of illness, as might present itself in a terrorist attack, and to initiate action. According to the medical 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, dean of the School of Medicine and senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences.

"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."

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the AAMC urged medical schools across the country to teach students how to respond to bioterrorism and identify a possible terrorist attack.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 7

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