URI pharmacy students to gain disaster response experience through exercise simulating flu pandemic

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Media invited to cover event May 8

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 4, 2007 – University of Rhode Island pharmacy students will participate in a tabletop exercise that will deal with an influenza pandemic Tuesday, May 8 from 11:20 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Fogarty Hall, 41 Lower College Road, Room 28.

The students, who are enrolled in Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Jef Bratberg’s advanced infectious diseases class, will have to work together to come up with the best strategies for tackling the threat for their final exam.

Bratberg said the tabletop exercise is very helpful in preparing students for future careers in their field. “This scenario is a real-life assignment,” Bratberg said. “Something like this could actually happen.” He thinks that this style of exam is much more effective than sitting in the classroom answering questions. “It allows students to use the knowledge they have gained in class and test its effectiveness in the field,” Bratberg said.

Thirty students will be involved in the pandemic influenza plan presentation. Each student is assigned to one of eight groups, with each group assigned to present their plan for a specific response to the pandemic. The groups will address plan administration, education and training, disease surveillance, patient and occupational response, logistics, triage and infection control, and surge capacity. The students were responsible for producing a plan more than 200 pages in length. They will present their response, explaining why they chose or chose not to take certain actions.

When asked why he runs these types of exercises, Bratberg explained that there is no plan in life. “People don’t just say to you, you’re head of pharmacy, here is how to do your job.” Bratberg said. “The only way to learn how to do your job is through experience, and this tabletop exercise provides that.”

This is not the first time that the College of Pharmacy has been involved in disaster simulations. In previous years, scenarios have included a category five hurricane and a bioterrorism attack. Bratberg plans to expand on this year’s scenario for next year’s exercise. He wants to use the scenario of pandemic influenza in a school setting and test the students’ response. “This would provide a school with a free critique of its current disaster response plan and fulfill the University’s mission of service to the community,” Bratberg said.