Redfield's Dr.Matt Owens recognized internationally and honored for contributions to disaster response solutions
By Shiloh Appel
Today marks the five-year anniversary of the day Redfield CMH Doctor and assistant professor at USD SSOM, Matt Owens, received his Golden Stethoscope Preceptor Award. The award, sponsored by the Rural Experiences for Health Professions Students (REHPS) program, honored Owens for his considerable contributions to mentoring rural health professions students. However, the award recognized only one of Owens' many contributions to the training of young medical students in the state.
Over the years, Dr. Owens has not only mentored many health professions students, but has also been instrumental in the establishment of the annual Disaster Training Day in South Dakota and has put South Dakota on the map in the medical world.
In 2004, Owens was part of a group of physicians from the South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine (USD SSOM), the South Dakota State Medical Association (SDSMA) and the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) that met together to address disaster response issues in the state. According to a research article published in the globally distributed "Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness" journal by Dr.Owens, Cheri Buffington, Michael Frost and Randall Waldner, the Association of American Medical Colleges recommended an increase in medical education for public health emergencies, bioterrorism and weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
"The group saw two specific scenarios where training was needed," the article states."First, medical students could be used as force extenders in a state or region-wide disaster response. Second, students could be used as additional help in a local response while on clinical rotations. USD SSOM is a 'medical school without walls' that trains students across the state."
Out of the need for more trained emergency disaster responders grew the annual Disaster Training Day. Since 2004, DTD has provided disaster preparedness training to 2,246 students across 13 health professions.
"As it expanded, we came to the realization that no other state in the United States is doing this," said Owens. "So then I presented a few times on it, and I was asked to submit an article to the [Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness] journal. It took about six months to get the article right and ready for publication."
The article was published in 2017, and has since been distributed worldwide by the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health.
"I've been a member of the Society for Disaster Medicine for a number of years and I have been going to their meetings for maybe ten years," said Owens. "I got to know a lot of those folks. It is an international group, so it is a lot of fun."
Through the Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Owens said he was able to meet the head of disaster response for the People's Republic of China, as well as disaster response leaders from Israel, Sweden and Germany. He was also able to meet the disaster response doctors who responded to the Mumbai Massacre and the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. During meetings, the various nations share their disaster response ideas and experience.
"The Israelis have asked me,'How do you get that many students from that many different disciplines at the same place at the same time?'" said Owens, referring to the annual Disaster Training Day. "The question isn't how you got them there, it's how you get that structure to work in a university system…There was never any goal to publish [information on the South Dakota model for disaster preparedness]. But, after we started looking at how much data we had accumulated and the fact that there are some lessons learned there, and that there are other educational systems that may want to do this, that was the driving force to publish it."
Owens formerly lived in Iowa and Nebraska and served in the U.S. Army Reserve for a time until 1982. He then completed undergraduate school, graduate school and medical school at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Owens started working part-time at Redfield's Community Memorial Hospital in 1998 and began to his full-time career at CMH in 1999. Since then, Owens and his family has called Redfield home.