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Texas Emergency Medical Task Force
Several responders from the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force, including two from the UT Health Science Center, visit with Gov. Rick Perry in West following the fire and explosion at the fertilizer plant. Emily Kidd, M.D., is on the first row on the left and Todd Bergbacher, D.O., is third from the left in the back row next to Gov. Perry, who is wearing the tan shirt.

Faculty members respond to disaster in West

September 2013

by Rosanne Fohn

One of the first to hear about the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, was Emily Kidd, M.D. The emergency physician and assistant professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio arrived in the northeast Texas town within a few hours, at midnight on Wednesday, April 17. She found that emergency medical responders had already transported the most severely injured patients to area hospitals.

While she did not treat patients, her work was far from over. Dr. Kidd wears several hats due to her assignments in the Department of Emergency Health Sciences (EHS), part of the School of Health Professions, and the Department of Emergency Medicine (EM) in the School of Medicine. Because the EHS department has a contract to provide paramedic training for the San Antonio Fire Department, Dr. Kidd serves as its interim medical director. This role also places her in regional and state leadership positions in emergency planning and response.

After deploying to West, Dr. Kidd worked in the state medical operations center in Austin, where she helped deploy disaster resources to West, including a Mobile Medical Unit (MMU) - a hospital emergency room on wheels. She returned to West as medical director for the stateís Emergency Medical Task Force to assess medical needs until the state medical resources were no longer needed.

Working in a similar advisory role was Craig Manifold, D.O., assistant professor in the EM and EHS, who serves as a colonel in the Texas Air National Guard and joint surgeon for Texas Military Forces. Dr. Manifold said, "As the senior physician and adviser to the adjutant general, I observed response activities and assured that military medical assets were available to help with the disaster."

In addition, three faculty members provided care for patients in the MMU:
  • David Wampler, Ph.D., LP, assistant professor of EHS, helped set up the MMU and worked as a paramedic there on April 18 and 19.
  • Craig Cooley, M.D., M.P.H., EMT-P, FACEP, assistant professor/clinical and program director of the EMís emergency medicine fellowship, assisted with setting up the MMU and was the only physician seeing patients there from 6 p.m. April 18 until 4 p.m. April 18. "In the MMU, we are capable of evaluating and treating injuries ranging from minor bumps and bruises to stabilizing critical patients. Most everything I saw while I was there were relatively minor symptoms related to the blast or other minor injuries," Dr. Cooley said.
  • Todd Burgbacher, D.O., clinical instructor and an emergency medical services fellow, relieved Dr. Cooley until the MMU was no longer needed, around 6 p.m. April 19.

Dr. Manifold pointed out that Dr. Burgbacher received an invaluable educational experience. "In addition to treating patients, he was able to actively participate in planning and deploying in a complex multiagency response to a live disaster," he said. "This is something that few programs in the country are able to provide and that few emergency medicine residents are able to participate in."

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Updated 7/30/14