Let us remember the sacrifices our EM colleagues make during crises

Today’s the day for us to take a bit of a pause and remember colleagues.   Those who we know well,  those we’ve been indirectly connected to and those related to our field of work.  A recent article for the New England Journal of Medicine titled , “A good death- Ebola and sacrifice” describes a sad and unfortunate death of emergency medicine clinicians in Liberia.  I had the fortunate opportunity to indirectly work with these folks when I was staff at the University of Chicago a few years back.   The comments made in the New England Journal of Medicine about Dr. Brisbane and Dr. Borbor’s dedication and commitment were echoed among our residents who debriefed with us about their experiences at JFK hospital in the early stages of supporting JFK’s emergency services.

As emergency medicine clinicians we often take on risks, make sacrifices,  create workarounds and deal with a lot of uncertainty.  But let us not forget the special colleagues in our field who take on immense risks to do what they believe is right .  Some crises bring on a lot of positive public publicity. A doctor flying to another country to save some disaster-struck patient from their injuries and then flying back to their home country a hero.   This is not one of those stories.  Although laudable,  frankly those herculean stories are the minority and not the norm.

So I urge you to take this time to take pause for our colleagues all around the world who engage in emergency services,  risk their lives and sometimes even in great fear, act on behalf of what they believe is right; for better for worse.   Most of our colleagues are local responders, people who we may not know, don’t go to our conferences, don’t speak our language.  They live in the-country where disasters occur and are likely to take on additional levels of risks to support their own communities, countries, and regions.

The Syrian Red Crescent supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross shared the below tweet this morning. Their team of emergency service providers delivered some of the first medical supplies supported in this area of Syria since the beginning of the war.


Our health colleagues in Syria and the local organizations that support them take on immense risks across very insecure territories.

I urge you to recognize our emergency medicine colleagues or emergency service colleagues around the world.  And if you are so inclined… think about being an advocate

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Mobile tech- rushing forward & standing still at the same time

We’re always reaching forward,  amazing ourselves about how quickly the mobile technology landscape is advancing. That’s a good thing,  but how about standing still for a moment to remember those who still live in environments not at the crest of the wave.

Back in 2009, The Economist published a series of articles about the evolving technology landscape. (Eureka Moments, Mobile Marvels) At that time basic and smart phones were referenced at “luxury” items, quickly evolving in the global landscape where the cost barriers were being broken. Much of this is due to the advances in device technology  and pre-paid  billing or “top up” options. This paved the way for those with limited cash to access these communication tools in more feasible ways.

Time and time again we amaze ourselves with evidence such as the total number of mobile subscriptions, or the increasing rate of global smart phone owners. And with this evidence we imagine and build tools with the aim to reshape the preparedness and response environment during disasters and humanitarian crisis.


Let’s stand still for a moment

who will be forgotten because they are not part of the cohort of emerging smart phone users because of illiteracy?

who will we rush by as we reach for new mobile technologies, leaving the older versions behind?

And might we leave our early users in the lurch as we surge forward with new versions but stumble with migration support systems?

Old smartphones and basic phones may just be transported to other parts of the developing world; sometimes for reuse.  Or better yet, just produced around the world to fit the needs of communities who can afford only the basics. And all of these devices will be part of a cohort of our “users”, especially in humanitarian environments. As protracted humanitarian crisis continue and more complex crisis emerge those most digitally vulnerable are likely to be a crucial part of the pulse of situation awareness, knowledge, and response in these environments.

So let’s not only rush to the next software, tool or app but support the slowdown efforts that may be less interesting. It may be hard to fund the less-than-shiny approaches, but it may reap the positive benefits we seek along the way. Let’s still put effort in building tools for the heterogeneity of users as they advance at the pace that is driven by the socio-political context that we live in.  Where sometimes technology just can’t transcend the drivers of war, conflict and poverty.