Our gallery of masters celebrates disaster health professionals who advanced disaster best practices through their inter-disciplinary, inter-agency, and international expertise. Their field leadership and practice excellence in disaster settings have improved the lives of countless beneficiaries, inspired the colleagues around them, and made the world a better place.

Thomas S. Durant

Tom worked as a gynecologist and hospital administrator. His day job was Assistant Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital. His passion was refugees and disaster victims worldwide. While academic faculty at home hectored the outside world on humanitarian principles, and published self-congratulatory articles claiming influence on national policy, Tom was quietly serving disaster victims in the field. He excelled in mitigating the health consequences of armed conflict through clinical and public health programs. First the locals noticed, then the agencies noticed, then the international community noticed. His work with international organizations in cross-border settings helped establish the professional practice of disaster medical coordination. Among his enduring contributions are his rules of engagement in disaster relief operations. Tom cared little for recognition, but it came anyway--Man of the Year for the National Conference for Community and Justice, Humanitarian Award from the UN, and the first US fellowship in refugee medicine named in his honor at MGH. Tom was the archetypal humanitarian and a master of the craft.

A.K. Siddique

AK worked as a bush surgeon in sub-Saharan Africa for 17 years. He refined his operative technique to meet field constraints exemplified by his mastery of a skin-to-skin C-section in 15 minutes obliged by the predictable failure of generator-powered lights. His patients didn't leak and their neonates survived. Nonetheless, AK found himself surrounded by public health problems that overwhelmed his clinical practice--epidemics among them. He gravitated to cholera epidemic management and eventually settled at ICDDR,B. With his unmatched corpus of experience in cholera endemic settings, and the science of ORS emerging at his institution, he became the world's foremost practitioner of cholera case management and disease control. His work with cholera treatment centers in Goma after the Rwandan genocide is legendary. Moreover, he was intolerant of distractions from quality care--whether from inexperienced providers or egotistical academics. After Lancet published AK's original report on Goma, MSF wrote a letter to the journal editor in which it attempted to justify the high case-fatality rates of its cholera treatment centers. AK was unimpressed and deftly critiqued the excuses in a follow-up reply to the editor. When a self-promoting US academic made himself a nuisance in the field, AK acidly dismissed him as a computer hacker. AK is a pioneer in crossing professional boundaries and a master of the craft.

Frederick "Skip" M. Burkle

Skip trained in pediatrics, emergency medicine, and psychiatry. He led the development of disaster health sciences as a professional discipline. He advanced the field as an adept practitioner, prolific author, innovative program builder, and esteemed mentor to a generation of health professionals. He possesses three cardinal attributes of disaster health professionals:
  • interdisciplinary expertise--triple specialty certified in emergency medicine, pediatrics, and pediatric emergency medicine with cross training in psychiatry, public health, humanitarian assistance, and tropical medicine;
  • interagency expertise--work in governmental, non-governmental, Red Cross and UN organizations;
  • international expertise--work in over 30 countries, including 5 major wars and multiple conflicts.
    Among his landmark contributions, he authored the first multidisciplinary textbook of disaster medicine. He directed the first civil-military study center devoted to disaster management and humanitarian assistance. He pioneered the domains of civil-military cooperation and inter-agency technical liaison. For all his contributions, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences. In telling truth to the occupying power during the Iraq war, at both personal and professional cost, Skip earned the esteem of disaster field practitioners internationally and cemented his place at the apex of disaster professionalism. Skip is a visionary of the field and a master of the craft.


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