Zombie Apocalypse Becomes IPE

University of Michigan School of Public Health’s annual emergency preparedness exercise opened its doors to more health professions in 2017.

A zombie-themed biopreparedness drill that gives public health students and the broader community simulated disaster response experience also makes perfect sense for interprofessional education. So for 2017, in addition to partnering with Michigan health agencies, the U-M School of Public Health (SPH) welcomed the U-M schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy and social work and the Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education as co-sponsors for the “Zombie Apocalypse.” This enhanced collaboration for the event, during which some 150 students, faculty, staff and community participants acted as zombies, citizens, or filled official roles in managing the disaster.

“Ten of the MSW students from our Advanced Clinical Social Work Practice in Integrated Healthcare (SW630) and I were excited to be the first social work class involved in the event,” said Clinical Assistant Professor Debra Mattison. She noted that in addition to helping “heighten the awareness of mental health needs and diversity in community emergency preparedness,” social work had student participation in planning the event.

The zombies in this drill represented a worst-case scenario: a natural disaster, major disease outbreak or bioterrorism. The zombie invasion allowed students to assist local public health officials to practice their emergency response plans, which should translate for any type of disaster. For Washtenaw County Public Health, the collaboration provided an opportunity to exercise emergency plans and work with local partners and volunteers.

“The purpose of this event is to test our department’s response plan, and to continue our preparedness work with the U-M School of Public Health, the Washtenaw County Medical Reserve Corp and other partners,” says Cindra James, public health preparedness administrator with Washtenaw County Public Health. “We also want to stress to people the importance of being prepared for any type of community emergency. How you prepare and plan for a zombie apocalypse can be replicated in how you prepare for any emergency.”

“This was the fourth iteration of this type of exercise at the U-M SPH,” said Phoebe Goldberg, a program manager at the school. “It represents a relevant opportunity for students to apply classroom learning to a public health practice situation and to interact with professionals who do this work on a regular basis. Public health is a truly interdisciplinary field, and there are roles for a variety of health and other professionals in emergency preparedness and response. We were glad to be able to engage interprofessional participants for this year’s activity.”

Watch local newspaper video from the event.

Event sponsors for 2017: U-M schools of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Social Work; Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education; Washtenaw County Public Health; Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

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