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September 26, 1966

Disaster Medicine What Is It? Can It Be Taught?

Author Affiliations

From the Field Program of the Committee on Trauma, American College of Surgeons, New York.

JAMA. 1966;197(13):1081-1084. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110130081022

We are all familiar with the disconcerting facts that we prepare for war on the basis of past experience and that the new wars always prove to be quite different.

When I was a medical student many years ago, much of the teaching in surgery was "what we learned in the World War." Unfortunately, much of what my professors learned in World War I just was not true, ie, that wounds need frequent dressings and irrigation with sodium hypochlorite solution, that the drafty places in barracks and hospitals caused influenzal pneumonia.

However, good lessons can be learned in war. World War II taught us again the sound principles of management of mass casualties, the importance of the proper use of traction splints, and many other things of lasting value.

After World War II the American people were especially conscious of danger inherent in the changing character of war. Missiles and