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Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

Military doctor calls for more disaster training for physicians

June 15, 2003

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— During his 31 years as a military physician, it's become apparent to Hays dermatologist Wallace Weber that doctors no longer are trained on issues that would come into play in a military or biological attack on the United States.

Weber decided to do something about it. At the same time he is retiring from the U.S. Army Reserves, Weber has endowed a lectureship on bioterrorism and military and disaster medicine at the Kansas University School of Medicine.

The Weber Lectureship on Military and Disaster Medicine was created as an annual lecture series. Weber recently presented the inaugural lecture at KU.

"We've gotten away from doctors knowing about military medicine," Weber said.

Some of the issues physicians deal with in a military attack are triage of large groups of injured people, treatment of blast injuries and how to treat large groups of displaced and sick people. Medical schools no longer address these issues, Weber said.

The topic of Weber's speech was the six bioterrorism agents most likely to be used -- anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, botulism and viral hemorrhagic fevers, he said.

"They are Category A -- which means they are the biggest threat to national security," Weber said.

"It's been said that bioterrorism is the poor man's nuclear weapon. For the same dollars with biological weapons, you can produce many deaths.

Outbreaks of any of the six agents would be significant headaches for public health authorities, Weber said.

As a military physician, Weber was assigned most recently to the 325th Field Hospital unit, based at Independence, Mo. He began his military career in 1965 and retired at the rank of colonel.

During his years in the Army Reserves, he served as a flight surgeon in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991.

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