UNC Greensboro School of Nursing Associate Dean Audrey Snyder has had her heart open to serving others as part of a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) for more than 20 years. After a two-year application review process, she was sworn in as a member of the NC-1 team this past June and recently returned from her first deployment.
“For me, it is always important to use one’s skills to help humanity,” Dr. Snyder says. “In disaster situations, vulnerable populations and disparities become more evident. Being on this team lets me help to make a difference. It also provides real world examples that I can use in teaching community health, public health, and disaster preparedness.”
Waiting for the right time
Dr. Snyder learned about DMAT in 1991 while living in Virginia. However, it wasn’t the right time to join, as there wasn’t a team close to where she lived and her children were young. When she came to UNCG in 2019, there were openings for nurse practitioners with the NC-1 team, which is located in nearby Winston-Salem, and she decided to finally apply.
“With my background in emergency care and flight nursing, and my research on disaster preparedness and response, I felt like I had expertise to bring,” Dr. Snyder says. “In a role like this, you also need to be able to work in austere conditions. I’ve been a member of relief teams in El Salvador and Haiti, so I know what to expect and can quickly adapt to a different environment to provide care.”
As a nurse practitioner, she is responsible for assessing patients, triaging, developing a plan for interventions, prescribing medication as needed, and overseeing other medical or trauma management during medical emergency situations.
The team is also responsible for emergency preparedness, as was the case in her deployment in September to support the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Collaborating with organizations such as the Coast Guard and Secret Service, the team created a process and set up equipment in preparation in case any situations requiring medical assistance might arise.
Supporting the community
“Being on the team is considered intermittent military service, so I could be deployed at any time,” Dr. Snyder explains. “I’ve been fortunate that our School of Nursing Dean Dr. Debra Barksdale feels it’s worthwhile to have someone be a part of this and bring back the expertise.”
This expertise is then shared with UNCG students and the broader community.
“As a result of my experience with DMAT, I am able to review and revise the content for guest lectures by adding in real life experience,” Dr. Snyder says. “I’m also hoping to inspire students to get involved in organizations like this.”
There are currently more than 300 open nursing positions across the country with DMAT teams. “For people with the credentials and a desire to learn, there’s the opportunity,” she adds.
Opportunities for UNCG students
Dr. Snyder’s passion for disaster management extends to her Global Health and Disaster Preparedness in the Caribbean program: “I teach a summer course in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean. We work with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which is their equivalent of FEMA. They don’t have the manpower for research, so our students and students from the University of Illinois Chicago are able to learn research methods and support their disaster management groups.”
This past summer, students studied the impact of food security during the pandemic as well as psychosocial needs during and after the pandemic. They are working on interpreting that data to present back to NEMA, so the organization can strategically plan for future disasters.
Looking to study abroad?
Learn more about UNCG’s Global Health and Disaster Preparedness in the Caribbean program.
Story by Amanda Saber, AMBCopy
Photography provided by Dr. Audrey Snyder