About Me

Steam from lava on Hawaii pouring into the ocean at night.

Hello and welcome to DisasterDoc. My name is Sheila Sund, M.D. and I am a physician from Salem, Oregon. My specialty training is in Neurology and Hospice/Palliative Medicine, but I was always fascinated with natural disasters. My disaster exposure began early at the age of 12 with evacuation from my home after the San Fernando Earthquake in California. Besides causing a fear of heights, the earthquake left me a walking seismoscope – I feel earthquakes that no one else does. I also find a strange comfort in the fact that natural disasters are the one area where Mother Nature wins out over man, despite what we do to her at other times.

That may all sound somewhat woo-woo, but my involvement in disaster preparedness is anything but. A few years ago, I tried to find out what my role would be as a physician volunteer following a major disaster in my community, only to discover that no one could tell me. As I investigated further, I discovered physicians are largely left out of emergency healthcare planning, although everyone hopes they will miraculously appear when a disaster occurs. This started my quest to learn as much as possible about emergency preparedness, so I could define both my own role and the role for other doctors in my community. Along the way, my quest has taken on a life of its own. Instead of waiting for a disaster to occur, I find myself volunteering more and more on a variety of disaster preparedness projects.

I chair the Marion Polk County Medical Society Disaster Preparedness Task Force (boy, do we need a good acronym), writing regular columns for physicians as well as planning other ways to educate physicians. I work with hospitals, public health, emergency response, and county emergency planners on the Region 2 Healthcare Preparedness Program, trying to include physicians in disaster planning. I go to conferences, take part in drills,  interview everyone I can, and generally make a pest of myself trying to learn everything about how society, and particularly healthcare, will respond after a major disaster. I even spent a day riding along with firemen to better understand how they function (besides, I got to ride in the fire truck with sirens – every kid’s dream). Most recently, I have taken on the role of Operations and Medical Officer for the Marion County Medical Reserve Corps, with the hope of developing it into an independently functioning medical volunteer group that could play many roles in disaster response. If that’s not enough, I read geology and disaster books for fun. I guess its fair to say I am a little obsessed!

In this process, I discovered that much of what I learn is largely unknown to anyone outside the emergency preparedness field (or even inside the field, where communication between agencies is not always ideal). From my frequent (perhaps constant) conversations on this topic with colleagues, friends and family both inside and outside healthcare, I discovered many of them also think this information is interesting and helpful, and wish it was more widely understood. Perhaps they are just humoring me, but if not, this blog is for them – and for you.

By Sheila Sund

  1. Brett Popovich says:

    I look forward to hearing more from you!

  2. Pat says:

    Hey Doc, have you signed up on ServOR..Oregon’s ESAR-VHP program? Are you an MRC Volunteer?

    • disasterdoc says:

      Definitely! I took over operations of our MRC last summer, and am in the process of turning it into an independent medical team (similar to a DMAT model), but for local use.

  3. Richelle Rumford says:

    Do you speak at symposiums on disaster preparedness topics?

    • disasterdoc says:

      I am always glad to speak at symposiums or other gatherings. I speak most often on issues related to healthcare preparedness, but also do more general interest disaster topics, chosen based on the audience. Feel free to contact me via the Contact Me tab at the top of my blog.

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