FACEM Dr Brydie Edwards has always had an interest in mass casualty and disaster medicine. “Particularly close to my heart are the Madrid metro bombings of 2004 – I was a second-year medical student and had just been in the very location. I guess it always reminds of how different my life could have been,” Dr Edwards says.
It is this passion, along with academic diligence, professionalism and conduct, that has seen her been accepted into the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Fellowship in Disaster Medicine, an affiliated fellowship of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative (a program jointly administered through the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government).
Dr Edwards’ position as Disaster Medicine Fellow with a concentration in Counter-Terrorism Medicine includes an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School. She will have teaching, research, and field work responsibilities during this program at Harvard Medical School and its affiliated institutions, the city of Boston, as well as satellite fellowship sites across the United States and around the world. In the event of a large-scale international disaster, she may deployed as part of the fellowship team.
Dr Edwards’ fellowship commences on July 1 and is for 12 months. While she will be based in Boston, Dr Edwards will also get the opportunity to travel and undertake rotations in 11 countries and nine states.
“To be selected for this fellowship is a great honour – and one I’m very proud of,” Dr Edwards says. “Being the first Australian to be offered this role inevitably means there are a few nerves, but more than anything I’m actually really excited by the opportunity to represent this wonderful profession and specialty on a world stage.”
Dr Edwards’ colleague, FACEM Professor Louise Cullen, who is PreEminent Staff Specialist at the Emergency and Trauma Centre which is based at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, paid tribute to Dr Edwards. “This is a huge achievement for Brydie, ACEM and Australia,” Professor Cullen said. “In the context of disaster management, Brydie will return with invaluable knowledge, skills and contacts to face the increasing challenges in disaster management now and in future.”
Dr Edwards works at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Emergency and Trauma Centre as an Emergency Physician. She also works for LifeFlight as a Retrieval Physician and Aeromedical Clinical Coordinator at Retrieval Services Queensland.
“My interest in the medical response to disaster has been further heightened by performing retrievals from multi-casualty incidents and also witnessing the medical aftermath of natural disasters both locally and around the world,” Dr Edwards says.
“I’ve elected to undertake a concentration in counter-terrorism medicine as part of my disaster fellowship. The reason? Endeavour Hills and Lindt café 2014. Parramatta police headquarters 2015. Minto 2016. Queanbeyan 2017. Mill Park and Bourke Street 2018. Christchurch 2019. We are not insulated from this type of disaster incident. I want to see a medical system that is proactive in preparation rather than reactive in response. And I want to be part of a solution that ensures our front line and medical systems are equipped to respond to the next event that occurs on our doorstep – whether that be a natural disaster or a terrorism related incident.”
Dr Edwards says she is looking forward to the fellowship. “I make a conscious effort to immerse myself completely in whatever I happen to be doing at any given time – so I plan on soaking up absolutely everything I can from this experience,” Dr Edwards says.
Dr Edwards says while she will focus on Counter-Terrorism Medicine, “I am confident that my hands-on knowledge and experience from this fellowship will enable me to strengthen the Australian experience overall”.
“My goal is to integrate the learnings from this fellowship and translate them to the Australian environment – ensuring that there is a standardised, proactive and cost-effective approach to disaster and counter terrorism medicine preparedness and response – across institutions, emergency services and levels of government,” Dr Edwards says.
“I hope to be able to work with other leaders and experts in this field and drive necessary change to benefit the whole of the Australian population.”
Love for emergency medicine
Known among her colleagues and friends for not being a planner, Dr Edwards reckons this is the reason why she loves the unpredictability of emergency medicine. “I love that you never quite know what your day is going to be like. I love that every day is a blank slate,” she says.
“We often meet people on the worst day of their life. It’s an immense responsibility. But it’s also an incredible privilege. And I feel lucky I get to do this every day.”
Research in emergency medicine
When asked why it is important to undertake research, Dr Edwards says as emergency physicians “we’re always striving to do what’s best for our patients”. “Relevant and up to date research is key to being able to confidently make decisions that affect the lives of our patients and the sustainability of our health service every single day,” Dr Edwards says. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to work alongside world-class researchers and clinicians – and I’ve seen firsthand how their vital research has led to positive change in process and ultimately improved patient care.
“And that’s what research is all about. Whether we are contributing to the research, or promoting the benefits of it, everyone in the Emergency Medicine family plays an important role.”