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Public Health Disaster Medicine

LOCATION: West Virginia Poison Center, 3200 MacCorkle Ave, WVU Building 4th Floor, Charleston, WV
PRECEPTOR: Elizabeth Scharman, PharmD, DABAT, BCPS, FAACT
DURATION: 2-4 weeks 
OFFERED: Continuously
STATUS: Elective


The purpose of this rotation is to provide the medical student with an opportunity to work in the Poison Control Center to triage and respond to callers with concern and determine potential criteria for COVID-19 testing, and to serve the citizens of WV at the time of a global pandemic. Students will be given an overview of the way Public Health is operationalized during a disaster.

Patient Care:

  1. Students will answer telephone calls from the public to assess fitness for COVID-19 testing and provide scripted responses to questions under Poison Center faculty and staff supervision.
  2. Students will follow scripted clinical triage algorithms to provide public health advice and support.
  3. Students will work in teams of inter-professional responders, including medical students, residents, physicians, pharmacists, paramedics and other allied health professionals

Medical Knowledge:

  1. Understand basic principles of Public Health response to community disaster.
  2. Understand COVID-19 clinical signs and symptoms, and parameters for testing and clinical support.
  3. Demonstrate understanding of these Public Health principles by completing an online course recognized by FEMA.

Practice-Based Learning:

  1. Review evidence as described in Incident Command System Training, online modules ICS-100 and ICS-200.
  2. Display knowledge of evidence based guidelines to assist public callers in understanding symptoms and assisting in triage of COVID-19 testing

Communication Skills:

  1. Communicate evidence based public health interventions in plain language easily understood by patients.
  2. Demonstrate sensitivity to callers at a time of heightened public concern in a calm, competent and professional manner.
  3. Provide care that is compassionate, appropriate and effective for the treatment of health care problems and the promotion of health during a global pandemic


  1. Complete the required orientation and training modules in a thorough and timely manner.
  2. Attend assigned shifts promptly as scheduled and behave in a mature and professional manner throughout.
  3. Follow all hand hygiene, social distancing and team-minded courtesy to fellow responders and faculty

Systems-Based Practice: 

  1. Understand Public Health concepts, methods and protocols designed to respond to a community or global disaster.
  2. Provide clear and basic information to the public at a time of community-wide spread of disease and global pandemic


Online lectures, readings, case scenarios, videos and assessment questions


  1. Students will be required to complete two online Incident Command Training courses, and participate in a Poison Center training orientation provided by Dr Scharman on first day of rotation.
  2. Students will complete a packet of scripted materials including responses to frequently asked caller questions; resource available for COVID-19 testing; and other printed, online and community-based resources


Prior to start of the rotation, students will complete online Incident Command System Training modules, ICS-100 and ICS-200, earning FEMA federal training certificates which may be added to the student's CV. Students will be scheduled, up to two at a time, in shifts from 7am - 3pm or 3pm to 11pm, completing five shifts each week.

Students will complete a detailed orientation provided by Dr Scharman on first day of rotation, and serve in a team of interprofessional responders answering call center telephone calls.