One way psychiatrists can maximize their contribution when working with
disaster survivors is to receive training in "first response"
emergency medicine, according to Saundra MaassRobinson, M.D.
"We in psychiatry need to look at disaster response
differently," said Maass-Robinson, who went to Indonesia earlier this
year to treat survivors of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (see story
beginning on page
Training in emergency medicine would enable psychiatrists to get immediate
access to patients and treat injuries related to specific disasters, she said,
while simultaneously addressing patients' mental health problems. "For
psychiatrists to be the most useful, we've got to integrate ourselves into
each level of care," she said.
Though Maass-Robinson has not yet received emergency medical training, she
plans to do so in the near future. "On the ship, I could have been doing
more to help patients than just working as a psychiatrist," she