Perspectives on Providing Medical Support in Conflict Zones

December 6, 2023 by

Panel - UVA perspectives on providing medical support in Conflict Zones

The School of Medicine hosted an open forum about perspectives on providing medical support in conflict zones on November 29 at Garrett Hall. The event, attended by faculty, staff, and students, was moderated by Professor Kirsten Gelsdorf in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She welcomed panelists from the School of Medicine: Leigh Grossman, MD, Professor, Department of Pediatrics; Andrew Muck, MD, Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine; Greg Saathoff, MD, Professor, Departments of Public Health Sciences and Emergency Medicine; and Mark Weathers, MBA, School of Medicine Chief of Staff, as well as Andy Thomson, MD, Assistant Director, UVA Center for the Study of the Mind and Human Interaction.

Professor Gelsdorf kicked off the discussion, stating the goal for the event was to bring the community together to exchange ideas and experiences about providing a humanitarian response in complex operational situations. Dr. Muck shared some of his experiences providing medical care during Operation Iranian Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and establishing the San Antonio Refugee Health Clinic. Participants also heard about Dr. Saathoff’s experiences with the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit and challenges dealing with the aftermath of 9/11. Panelist Mark Weathers, a 31-year veteran of the military, emphasized the importance of having strong leaders and an excellent organizational structure to help manage chaotic environments. Dr. Grossman discussed her time growing up in India and as a volunteer and teacher about infectious diseases in countries like Haiti. Speaking from a psychiatrist’s perspective, Dr. Thomson detailed the importance of using agency, altruisim, and attachment to recover from individual, group and societal trauma.

The audience and panelists had a lively interchange at the end of the discussion with participants asking questions about opportunities to use telehealth in crisis zones, how to work through unintended consequences, and advice for how students can prepare themselves to have a positive impact on society. Panelists emphasized the importance of cultivating one’s passions, seeking education, and breaking down silos through interdisciplinary collaborations, among many other pearls of wisdom.

As our community continues to be affected by the aching conflict in Israel and Gaza, this open forum was an opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and community members to gather and learn about each others perspectives through empathetic and informed assembly and exchange. We appreciate the panelists, moderator, and attendees who joined us for this enlightening event.

Photo credit: Harry Moxley

Filed Under: Community, Featured