2008 PFIG Recipient Kimberly Everett
School of Engineering & Applied Sciences
Biomedical & Systems Engineering
2009 Graduation Year
Internship: Emergency Care Coordination Center, DHHS in Washington, DC.
This summer I am working in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services. I am an intern in a new strategic entity, titled the Emergency Care Coordination Center (ECCC), whose mission is to enhance the abilities of our daily emergency care systems in order to better prepare our medical systems to prepare for disasters. The main agenda of the ECCC right now is to help implement the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21, which dictates additional measures that need to be taken to improve our public health response to disasters. In particular, I will be working on a charter for an interagency group to standardize curricula and training programs for response personnel. Also, I am responsible for compiling a body of knowledge about simulation programs used for response planners, which I am very excited about due to its connection to systems engineering.
Notes on the first week
In my first week, I have read paper after paper regarding disaster and emergency health preparedness, as well as started compiling comments about the charter I am working on and writing a critique for a simulation project proposed by a defense contractor. I have learned an incredible amount about the work that the federal government is putting into disaster preparedness and about the roles of the numerous departments and agencies involved. I am greatly looking forward to future meetings with DoD, FEMA, DHS, and other agencies to talk about both the charter and the simulation project. I think it will be exciting to have so many leaders of the country in one place. My goals for the summer are to have the group charter cleared by all participating agencies, create a wealth of information to inform ASPR of the capabilities of simulation, and to contribute to the mission of the ECCC through a review of efficiency studies in Emergency Departments.
I am now about half way done with my internship in the ECCC. In the last few weeks I have become very involved in all of my projects and my responsibility has skyrocketed. The charter I am working on for an interagency disaster health response education group is progressing steadily through the clearance process. This project has given me a great opportunity to learn about politics within the departments of the Federal government, as well as the complex relationships between entities within the Department of Health and Human Services. I have learned the importance of analyzing every word in a Federal document, and how concessions must be made in our editing process in order to stay mission-focused and concentrated on the end goal. I am also working on a project to gather information about existing simulations geared towards medical disaster response. I have had numerous meetings with Federal partners working on simulation and am currently planning the presentations for an upcoming conference that I will be attending on medical simulation in Boston . My boss is encouraging me to write a research paper for possible publication. The article I am working on will review and analyze triage systems in Emergency Departments.
As a way to gain a first-hand glimpse at the problems our nation’s emergency care system faces on a daily basis, I shadowed a fellow intern during his 12-hour overnight EMS shift in Calvert County , Maryland . Besides being very interested in the patients and treatments that I saw, I was also amazed by the dependence of the community on the one hospital in Calvert. The Emergency Department and the waiting room were packed—evidence of the ED overcrowding we talk about so much in the ECCC. This week I also shadowed a doctor in the GW Emergency Department, which redefined my thoughts about overcrowding. Every conversation- from the waiting room to the patients’ rooms- seemed to come back to ED crowding. It was not hard to see why; patients in hospital beds filled every available room and were placed head-to-foot all the way down hallways. These two experiences were instrumental in renewing my energy in the issues that our office faces. It is now much clearer to me why the work we are doing is so important.
As I look back on my internship experience, I am amazed by how much I learned and how many opportunities I have had to be a part of major projects. Since I last wrote, I attended a conference on Modeling and Simulation in Emergency Management and Healthcare, at which my boss presented. It was amazing to see industry, government, and academia presenting side by side and analyzing how they could all best work together. In my last few weeks I also started to coordinate our involvement in another healthcare simulation conference this fall.
My biggest project has still been trying to push the charter for the interagency disaster medical education and training group through the clearance process. Much of that process has involved collecting and analyzing comments from other government entities. We had to decide whether or not to change the charter based on the comments, which often involved several meetings with our partners and much debate. The hardest part was drafting responses to the comments, as often that involved very careful wording about not following their recommendation but still writing in a positive tone. Although the charter is not cleared as I hoped it would be at the beginning of the summer, it is much further along. I spent much of my last two weeks transitioning the project to another intern so that my absence would not delay the project.
One of the other amazing parts of my experience has been the opportunity to meet some very inspiring people. The other two interns and I had a 45-minute meeting with the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, who is a two-star admiral in the Public Health Service. It was a great opportunity to speak about our experiences and hear his thoughts. His overriding theme was that he wasn’t concerned with us staying in the exact field, but hoped we learned the satisfactions that come with public service. I also set up a personal meeting with the keynote speaker of the conference in Boston . He works with my boss on the Homeland Security Council, which advises the White House, so we sat and chatted about his career and advice for me on picnic tables next to the South Lawn of the White House. I also shadowed my boss in the ER of Washington Hospital Center, which was a chance to see him interact with patients as well as talk about his personal experiences in emergency medicine.In all, I had a wonderful time interning this summer, and would like to thank the Parents Fund for making it possible.