Disaster Day 2020: One Health in Practice

Classmate Teresa Martin (3VM) talking with owner while we are working on a patient behind them.

On Friday, Feb. 14, I had an amazing opportunity to use my knowledge from veterinary school to participate in a disaster simulation hosted by the Texas A&M Health Sciences Center.

Disaster Day is an all-day event that brings together students from the Texas A&M Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, as well as the School of Public Health, to work together to solve problems in a disaster scenario that affects humans and animals. It is the nation’s largest student-led interprofessional emergency response simulation.

The simulation took place at Disaster City, which is a mock community that features full-scale, collapsible structures designed to simulate various levels of disaster and wreckage. This area gave us plenty of space to work through animal cases affected by the “disaster” as well as collaborate with the other health professionals.

The “disaster” this year was a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Dallas. For our participation, we were split into groups to triage cases (usually stuffed animals as models for our patients) together, with the help of fourth-year veterinary students and veterinarians from the Veterinary Emergency Team (VET).

In many disasters, an increase in zoonotic disease incidence can occur. These are diseases that can pass from animal to human and include infections such as Leptospirosis, Sarcoptes, or ringworm.

As veterinarians, we have the knowledge on zoonotic diseases that some human medical professions may not have, so we can help solve these disease outbreaks. For example, there was one actor who came to us veterinary students to see if her skin lesions were consistent with ringworm because the human doctors were trying to figure out if she got the disease from an animal.

We weren’t able to “treat” her, but we advised the human medical doctors that she could have gotten ringworm from her outdoor cat in the disaster. Cats show no symptoms of ringworm, usually, but the pathogen can be transmitted from cat to human.

This simulation was a great experience to practice one health collaboration to help solve important problems that affect human, animals, and the environment.


Veterinary Students at Disaster Day

A ‘Disastrous’ Valentine’s Day

Each year, Texas A&M University hosts the nation’s largest student-led interprofessional emergency response simulation, known as Disaster Day.


This event allows students from the colleges of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Pharmacy, Public Health, Nursing, and Medicine to

collaborate with the Corps of Cadets and the Texas State Guard to practice emergency response on a grand scale.

This year (on Friday, Feb. 14) was my second time attending Disaster Day.

Each year, there is a unique catastrophe presented for students to manage.


This year’s simulation was an earthquake that resulted in
building collapses and a train derailment; last year’s event was a research plant explosion that devastated the entire


With actors covered in makeup and bandages, as well as first responders, hard-hats, and mock animal cases, this “disaster” teaches students the appropriate response skills needed for

such situations and allows them to learn the interprofessional channels of communication required when an entire community is affected by crisis.

The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) provides some of their actual medical response units for day. These trucks are outfitted with medical equipment and supplies needed for stabilizing and treating animals in the field during a


During Disaster Day, we had to triage animal cases according
to the severity of their wounds or diseases and then chose
treatment plans according to what supplies we had on hand. Sometimes these animals had diseases that were transmissible
to humans, requiring us to collaborate with the human medical 
doctors and public health
officials on the proper containment protocols as well as owner education or care.


As a third-year veterinary student, I am about to leap into my final clinical year before graduation.

I think it’s invaluable for veterinarians to receive training in emergency response and become better prepared to take leadership roles in the community when the unexpected happens.


Events like Disaster Day are fun and exciting ways for me to apply my knowledge and feel equipped to serve my community when it needs me most.

Exercising My Knowledge

Paisley with cast
Paisley, being a good sport

One of the many incredible things about veterinary medicine and Texas A&M is that not all learning happens in a classroom! Now that I’m in my third year of veterinary school, I have come to truly appreciate any opportunity to learn beyond sitting in a chair listening to lecture.

As ready as I am to hit the clinic floor come my fourth year in May, I am a little apprehensive to find out exactly how much I have learned. I am thankfully reassured every time I get the chance to exercise my knowledge.

My pet Labrador Retriever, Paisley, also gets to participate from time to time. In exchange for staying still enough for me and my groupmates to practice casting her leg or running an ultrasound, Paisley gets more treats and attention than she could ever ask for. As almost any Lab would, she loves it!

Not every day can be “Bring Your Lab to Lab Day,” though. Thankfully, we have models that also serve as great learning tools.

Laine performing ultrasoundRecently, in Orthopedic Surgery, we practiced fixing fractures on synthetic plastic bones. Although they weren’t exactly like the real thing, it was good practice trying to align the bone and drive a pin through it to stabilize it.

By the end of the lab, I really got to admire how good I had gotten at twisting my wire tight.

I was surprised to find that something I never would have considered doing in normal practice two years ago—fixing a fracture with pins and wires—seemed totally feasible in the next year or two. What I had considered as a “specialty” procedure before, I now consider doing in the future if my patients need it all because I’m more comfortable performing it now.

It’s amazing how much a single lab can change your viewpoint!

One of my favorite hands-on opportunities is one that isn’t even specific to the veterinary college. Disaster Day is an annual disaster simulation that nursing, medicine, public health, and veterinary students all get to participate in.

I had opted not to participate in my previous two years of vet school and having finally taken the chance to try it out, I thoroughly regret not participating sooner!

Laine with her friendsThough the event is a simulation that utilizes actors, it was surprising how much I immersed myself in the moment and learned from working through the various cases that were presented. The actors were so convincing and would show up anywhere from calm and collected to crying to screaming in panic!

What was truly engaging and eye-opening to me was seeing the crossover between the veterinary and human medical fields as zoonotic diseases—diseases passed from animals to people—popped up over the course of the day. After the event, I found myself wrapped up in just replaying some of the day’s excitement over and over again in my head.

Just when I start to really grow tired of all those hours studying, some exciting opportunity pops up for me to practice what I’ve learned.

I’m three years in now and I can confidently say vet school is just exciting as it was on day one—if not more! Here’s looking to fourth year and all the exciting cases ahead of me.