Emergency medicine specialist: U.S. preparedness falls short

Carl Herman Schultz is a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, Irvine. | Courtesy of the University of California, Irvine

When it comes to preparedness for a biological attack or natural outbreak, U.S. readiness has improved, but is “not quite there,” Carl Herman Schultz told BioPrepWatch on Tuesday.

Schultz is the Disaster Medical Services director, the EMS and Disaster Medical Services Felllowship director, and the director of research at the Center for Disaster Medical Sciences at the University of California, Irvine.

To increase awareness and preparedness for a biological outbreak or attack, Schultz said the government needs to “make sure it matters on a more consistent basis.”

“The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. have invested in upgrading preparedness against these problems, but we see it in fits and spurts. It’s crisis-driven,” Schultz said. "That is not how it should be, to make the most impact."

"The government should increase funding," Schultz said. “There’s really not enough funding for doctors, medicine and public health."

In terms of the medical field, Schultz said the perception that disaster preparation is someone else’s problem is something that exists in medical schools across the country, and physicians need to be trained better in regard to what disasters are like and what really happens in the field.

“The concept that we don’t need to fund preparation efforts isn’t accurate,” Schultz said. “New diseases are going to evolve.”

Schultz is a professor of emergency medicine at UC-Irvine, and his area of interest is disaster medicine. In the 1980s, he was part of a disaster-response team that responded to earthquakes and other emergencies; he was also part of a cadre of doctors in the 1990s who went into the 120 most populous areas and tried to teach pre-hospital care for Ebola patients.