logo

General information

Here you will find general information regarding the Master of Science in Disaster Medicine at the VUB.

Programme website

To visit the programme’s website, click here

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of this master are:

  • to assess the epidemiological and health risks in disaster situations
  • to participate in the medical preparedness and planning for disasters
  • to direct the medical response in disaster situations
  • to master the medical managerial and care aspects of specific disasters
  • to organize and manage the psychological support of disaster victims and rescuers
  • to organize and manage evaluation and debriefing sessions
  • to organize education and training in disaster medicine and disaster medical management
  • to master the medical managerial aspects in complex humanitarian emergencies
  • to understand the legal and ethical aspects in disaster management and
  • to supervise, develop and conduct research on the medical aspects of disasters
the EMDM is an interuniversity and international course and the only programme in disaster medicine and health disaster management worldwide at an advanced master level

QUALITY OF THE PROGRAMME MASTER OF SCIENCE IN DISASTER MEDICINE

The EMDM, an Advanced Master of Science in Disaster Medicine, is a level-two master programme jointl organized by the Università del Piemonte Orientale (UPO) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). The implementation of the EMDM is delegated to the Research Center in Emergency and Disaster Medicine - CRIMEDIM for the UPO (https://crimedim.uniupo.it) and the Research Group on Emergency and Disaster Medicine – ReGEDiM for the VUB (https://regedim.research.vub.be).

The EMDM is an interuniversity and international course and the only programme in disaster medicine and health disaster management worldwide at an advanced master level. Associate Universities and Institutions such are the Center for Disaster Medical Sciences at the University of California Irvine (Irvine, US), the Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (Geneva, Switzerland), Katastrofmedicinskt Centrum (Linköping, Sweden), Hacettepe University (Ankara, Turkey), School of Nursing & Human Sciences at Dublin City University (Dublin, Ireland).The international Faculty is composed of highly qualified professionals who have acquired field experience in large-scale natural disasters and complex humanitarian emergencies, technological mass casualty incidents, terrorist attacks and armed conflicts and are affiliated to academic and worldwide renowned institutions. The EMDM is supported by international organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the European Society for Emergency Medicine (EuSEM).

The EMDM is aimed at all postgraduate health professionals involved in the health aspects of disaster management and humanitarian crisis response.

the didactic concept is based on the application of a systematic, competency-based and multidisciplinary approach

Learning Outcomes and Profile

The overall objectives of the program are to provide students with:

•  A clear picture of the state of the art of the health disaster and sciences in order to train health workers to a high professional level, suitable to work at local, national and international level as clinical providers, public health practitioners, humanitarian fieldworkers or researchers for governmental, non-governmental or international organizations.

•  A broader spectrum of knowledge and skills in disaster medicine and disaster medical management as well as deeper insight into specific areas of application, taking into account the different disaster medical systems, the international environment in which humanitarian health workers operate, and the interactions with different stakeholders including nongovernmental and international organisations.

•  An advanced understanding of innovative tools currently available in the field of disaster and humanitarian health both for training, health management analysis and field operation purposes, and the practical skills to apply these tools during real events.

•  A solid foundation of research methodologies and practices applied to disaster medicine and health disaster management currently used by leading academic institutions and international organizations in the field of disaster and humanitarian health. 

•  An inspirational environment to highly contribute to the global development of disaster medicine as an academic discipline through promoting active collaboration between the universities and institutions involved in the study program, the students and the Alumni.

The learning outcomes of the programme describe what knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes students must have mastered upon graduating. The learning outcomes correspond with the level descriptors of the Flemish Qualification Structure and article II.141 of the Codex of Higher Education and include the 5 pillars of the Vision on Education of the VUB. The learning outcomes consist of 6 general and 7 discipline-specific learning outcomes and are revised yearly based on an international consensus on disaster medicine and management.

The didactic concept is based on the application of a systematic, competency-based approach, a multidisciplinary approach, a collaborative approach, evidence-based practices and the application of a number of educational methods according to the subject to be taught, such as experiential learning through gaming and simulation, and train the trainer. The educational materials are reinforced by synchronous discussion forums which are moderated and facilitated by students and Faculty and complemented by exercises which apply course concepts and principles to disaster situations similar to those that the students will encounter in their work after completion of the program. The online discussions, the debates during the two-week training period and the international and multicultural character of students and Faculty promote lateral thinking. One of the most important tenets of the EMDM program is the recognition and use of the experience of the students. They contribute to the learning process by giving feedback to one other, sharing their knowledge, voicing their opinions and feelings. These interactions help them to build competence and confidence in their abilities, as well as a greater commitment to the learning experience. This approach engenders intense involvement and allows participants to establish their credibility and earn the respect of their peers.

the Residential Course integrates and puts into practice the knowledge and insight gained from the online course modules

Curriculum

The curriculum of 60 ECTS starts with an online course, consisting of 9 course units, making up 40 ECTS together with game (computer simulation) and a two-week residential session. This online course is mainly organized in the first semester. The second semester consists of the Riceland game, where students work on a disaster scenario in groups, additional theoretical training, the Residential course, where all the knowledge and insight gained from the online course are integrated and put into practice, and the Master Thesis. The Master Thesis counts for 20 ECTS.

The Course Matrix is yearly updated, connecting the course units with the learning outcomes of the programme and with the teaching and evaluation methods. The resulting overview, showing the cohesion between these aspects, is a starting point for further discussion and adjustments.

To keep the large amount of course materials manageable for students, all course units were reviewed and streamlined in the past two years. Each topic inside the course unit focuses on the core content indicating additional information available in the course unit library.

before starting a course unit, students can take pre-tests to ascertain their level of knowledge

Assessment Policy

The Course Matrix shows that the assessment policy of the programme is well implemented. All course units are re-analysed yearly, also in terms of assessment. The final exam (consisting of 40 multiple choice questions and a larger computer-based exercise) is a proctored evaluation that all students take, under local supervision in their respective countries. It makes up 10% of the final grade. Other means to evaluate the students are based on their activities on the online learning platform (30 %): the number of times they visited the website, their number of interactions, watching podcasts, etc and on their involvement in the practical exercises of the Residential Session (30 %). The Master Thesis takes up the largest part in the grading (40%). Descriptive reports are not allowed: the thesis must be original research within the field of disaster medicine, under the guidance of both a local supervisor and a Faculty member.

Before starting a course unit, students can take pre-tests to ascertain their level of knowledge as many times as they want. The post-test after every unit can be taken only once. Both tests are purely formative and do not influence the student’s grade. 

the 2018 report suggests a very positive overall impression of EMDM participants

Student satisfaction

Every year the Executive Committee and the Quality Assurance Officer of the programme do an in-depth survey of the three main aspects: (1) E-learning phase, (2) Residential Session, and (3) Full-scale exercise.

The 2018 report suggests a very positive overall impression of EMDM participants. Students expressed very high levels of satisfaction with the residential session with 79% of students assigning it the top score of "excellent." Within the online phase, the most appreciated Course Unit (CU) was CU 3 ("Research in Disaster Medicine") with a mean of 9.10 (±0.57)/10 and the least appreciated was CU 6 ("Disaster Mental Health") with a mean of 7.00 (±2.18). Similar notions are expressed for the contents provided during the residential course.

The full-scale exercise was well appreciated:

the programme is supported by a dedicated and enthusiastic Faculty, that offers a career path for alumni

Teaching Staff

The programme is supported by a dedicated and enthusiastic Faculty, that offers a career path for alumni. Possibilities for further investment in teaching staff are examined. To consolidate the management of the programme an Executive Committee was introduced in 2018 to support the  Strategic Management Board.

To equip the students with the necessary disaster medicine competencies, the education and training in disaster medicine within the master is provided by an international Faculty of professionals, who have acquired field experience in large-scale natural, technological, terrorist, and humanitarian emergencies. While Faculty members liberally devote their time and expertise to the common endeavour, they also gain insight and inspiration from the co-operation, which in turn enriches the participatory institution.

the programme relies heavily upon its learning platform

Facilities and Study Guidance

The programme relies heavily upon its learning platform (Moodle). Its aim is to allow the students to learn the core content of the programme and to decide what to study in greater detail at different levels, to interact with the Faculty for a better understanding of difficult points and to collaborate with other students to acquire teamworking skills. The students are guided through the course by a tutor, who is an EMDM-alumnus, appointed by the Executive Committee.

During the two-week residential session, the students are followed face-to-face, through debates, interactive workshops and exercises (both simulations and real life) and given ample feedback. In addition, each student presents his/her research subject and discusses the thesis proposal with the Faculty. The master thesis is supervised by both a local expert and a Faculty member.

due to the format of the programme, the maximum number of enrolled students is 35

Enrolment

Due to the format of the programme, the maximum number of enrolled students is 35, including students of previous EMDM sessions who did not completed the course due to a duly justified impossibility to participate to the residential session. Up to now, more than 460 students enrolled from 80 different nations, with a recent increase in students from Africa.

students need to balance their learning time with professional activities

Study Success

In the last three years between 70 and 86% of the students successfully completed the programme. On average around 14% of the students drop out of the programme. The average time to graduation is 18 months. Students need to balance their learning time with professional activities. To facilitate this, the course content was reworked to guide the students to the core content. The course content was also reduced, and video conferences were spread out over both semesters. The students can now also use course materials on the learning platform during the second semester. In addition, the programme starts two weeks earlier on 15 November, to allow the students to familiarize themselves with the online learning environment, and the residential course is now scheduled to start at the end of May. These measures seem to improve matters, but the thesis is the main delaying factor: 95% of the students get through the online course, the residential course and the multiple-choice exam during the first year. Therefore, the thesis submission period was extended to a 3rd semester.

Diplomas, Alumni and Relations with the Job Market

The last 3 academic years respectively on average 20-30 students obtained their diploma.

Stakeholders from the work field, like Médecins Sans Frontières, World Health Organization, the Red Cross are specifically involved in the course Complex Humanitarian Emergencies. They provide content on the learning platform and organise a workshop during the residential course.  

the field of disaster medicine is very international and intercultural by its very nature, requiring students to be trained in intercultural aspects

Internationalization

The student groups are culturally very diverse every year, bringing its own set of challenges for the Faculty. In addition, the field of disaster medicine is very international and intercultural by its very nature, requiring students to be trained in intercultural aspects.

Intercultural aspects are covered in the course unit on complex humanitarian emergencies, e.g. how to intervene in the Middle-East as a European. For training intercultural skills interactive exercises with scenarios from real life are used. Cultural awareness is a learning goal in different course units, where the aim is not necessarily to have all students to agree on everything but to open their eyes to the different ways healthcare may be delivered in different countries and cultures. During the Residential Session these aspects are also brought into the exercises, sometimes resulting in tensions. These are however necessary for the students to grow but provide a challenge for the Faculty to manage. Many discussions occur about ethical aspects.

the Executive Committee appointed a tutor coordinator supervising the activities of each tutor

Communication

The Master Thesis Coordinator reworked the whole thesis process in 2018 to clarify and redefine the roles of the tutors and thesis supervisors, and what is expected from the students, in order to remediate the issues reported in the thesis panel discussions during the Residential Session. Besides the thesis coordinator the Executive Committee appointed a tutor coordinator supervising the activities of each tutor.

in the Executive Committee all stakeholders are represented

Course Council

The Executive Committee is the Course Council for this programme and meets during the Residential Session and an additional 3 times (on average) throughout the year.

In the Executive Committee all stakeholders are represented:

  • The Executive Officers (1 VUB, 1 UPO)
  • The Administrative Secretary
  • The Thesis Coordinator
  • The Education Coordinator
  • The Quality Assurance Coordinator
  • The Tutor and Alumni Coordinator
  • The e-learning and design Coordinator
  • The User Experience Coordinator
  • Student representatives (4 mandates)

 

---------------------------------------------------

This report is based on the results of a Quality Review on 8 May 2018. Representatives from the Executive Committee, including students, participated together with a panel of internal and external peers and experts.

This report was approved by the Academic Council on 21 October 2019.