SIG on Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine annual report

Rich Withnall reports

Membership of the SIG now exceeds 500. We have made good progress against all objectives in our 2016-2018 biennium activity plan accepted by the WONCA Executive in Jan 17:


We have generated new networks amongst the Commanders Medical of 45 countries (COMEDS); established a pan-NATO ‘Futures Advisory Board’ (Genoa, 12-18 Apr 18); and delivered the first COMEDS ‘Prioritized Research List’ (Prague, 29-31 May18) to focus international conflict and catastrophe medicine developmental efforts around six themes: blood and blood products forward; real-time telemedicine to support clinical reach-back and reach-forward; information management systems with integrated clinical decision support; growth of more empowered paramedical personnel; heightened physiological monitoring, including biosensors as a mass-casualty triage tool; and telemetry, artificial intelligence and ‘big data’ within conflict & catastrophe medicine.

Operational Appreciation

We have enhanced the appreciation of specific Operational environments through a Mission Exploitation Symposium (8 May 18) and Clinical Judgment Panel (3 July 18) following the combined military and humanitarian operations in Sep 17 to provide relief to the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Irma. We also led, and co-chaired working groups within ‘Warrior Care in the 21st Century’ (Toronto, 19-21 Sep 17), enhancing international best practice in the areas of resilience; recovery & rehabilitation; and reintegration in military or civilian life post-conflict or catastrophe.

Knowledge Sharing

We have improved knowledge and information exchange between military (Commander UAE Medical Services Corps) and non-military teams at Governmental level (UK Department of International Trade) in support of family medicine delivery in the Middle East. This has included delivery of a keynote presentation at the Arab Health Conference (Dubai, 27-31 Jan 18) and continued work with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society to mentor five new Primary Care Directors establishing a Family Medicine Centre of Excellence in Baghdad. We are also providing input to the Scientific Advisory Committee for WONCA World 2020.


Investing in the next generation of conflict & catastrophe medicine clinicians, we have secured funding and educational supervision for two MSc students (one in Birmingham and one in Brussels) and a one-year Fellowship in Disaster and Humanitarian Medicine (Harvard).

2018-20 Aims

For 2018-20, the proposed aims of the SIG will be to:

1. Continue to generate networks that help to develop the specialist medical, public health, leadership and managerial competencies required at the scenes of major man-made and natural disasters.

2. Provide a wider appreciation of the opportunities and constraints associated with challenging operational environments, partnerships with international organisations, and varying degrees of host nation support.

3. Provide a forum for an exchange of knowledge and information between member organisations’ GPs/FMDs.

4. Encourage international conflict and catastrophe primary care research, promote the role of the GP/FMD, facilitate education and help to develop effective international collaborative relationships at all levels.

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