Emergency medicine departments at the University of New Mexico and northern Japan’s Sendai City Hospital have formalized an eight-year-old relationship, signing a collaborative agreement that will help both institutions improve their education models and emergency response systems.
The new agreement, which was signed this month at the UNM Health Sciences Center, includes the official exchange of emergency medicine faculty and residents annually, along with academic and administrative best practices in emergency medicine and mass casualty incidents.
Steven McLaughlin, MD, chair of UNM’s Department of Emergency Medicine, became friends with Sendai City Hospital’s CEO Motonobu Kameyama, MD, several years ago after McLaughlin accepted an invitation to visit the hospital in Japan. The departments have been collaborating informally on clinical, administrative and educational opportunities since.
“Through this wonderfully organic relationship, we’ve gained tremendous clinical expertise in dealing with natural disasters like the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that created the Fukushima accident,” McLaughlin said. “At the same time, Sendai City Hospital has been exploring our models of emergency medicine physician education and training.”
While UNM has welcomed about 10 exchange faculty and residents from Sendai City Hospital over the years, it has sent up to 20 to Japan. In fact, UNM associate professor Tatsuya Norii, MD, a UNM School of Medicine faculty member, was an emergency medicine exchange resident from Japan.
“The information we have been able to exchange regarding our clinical experiences and emergency preparedness are important to both locations and cultures,” Norii said. “There are many lessons still to be learned about medical preparedness and response.”
Following the signing ceremony, Kameyama shared a presentation on Sendai City hospital’s response to the devastating 7.1 Fukushima Earthquake and resulting tsunami that temporarily crippled hospital operations, but not his emergency department. Sendai City Hospital was aided by Japanese Disaster Medical Assistant Teams, or DMAT, which were developed by UNM Chancellor for Health Sciences Paul Roth, MD, in the 1980s as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Disaster Medical System.
Roth lauded the new agreement. “We stand to learn quite a lot about how cities like Sendai mobilize with early alert systems in preparation for earthquakes and other mass casualty incidents,” he said. “I’m very proud of Dr. McLaughlin and the faculty in our Emergency Medicine Department for reaching out to different cultures and countries to prepare us and the state for a mass casualty incident using the world’s most modern techniques.”