September 12, 2008
Briggs leads Project HOPE team in post-earthquake China

On May 12, an earthquake measuring 7.9 in magnitude claimed the lives of more than 80,000 individuals, including approximately 15,000 children, in China's Sichuan Province. Hundreds of thousands more were injured and left needing rehabilitation services. To help assess the situation, Susan M. Briggs, MD, MGH trauma surgeon, director of the MGH International Trauma and Disaster Institute and founder of the International Medical Surgical Response Team (IMSuRT), led an international assessment team sponsored by Project HOPE to identify the pediatric rehabilitation needs in the stricken region.

Briggs and the team, which included 10 medical and administrative professionals, traveled to Sichuan Province in July to meet with Chinese health care providers in the area. Their main goal was to gain an understanding of the potential for tertiary hospitals in the surrounding cities to provide multidisciplinary physical and psychological services for those affected by the disaster.

Both the timing of the earthquake, which occurred during the school day, and its magnitude resulted in a large number of children with devastating crush injuries and amputations. In order to utilize the expertise of Project HOPE staff and their affiliated academic centers such as the MGH, the team worked to identify unmet needs in the care of the victims. The MGH previously has participated in similar assessments and projects after the earthquakes in Armenia and Turkey.

The Project HOPE team made a number of recommendations to address the need for improved medical services in the province. Among these, the group identified the need for professional training in the area of pediatric rehabilitation, which is a relatively uncommon medical speciality in China. In the coming months, select members of the MGH staff will initiate "train the trainer" programs to educate Chinese health care professionals in multidisciplinary rehabilitation medicine, which includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, prosthetics, orthopĀ¾dic surgery and vocational training.

Briggs and the Project HOPE team will continue to assess the Chinese health care system's potential in meeting the long-term rehabilitation needs of earthquake patients and will work to identify ways to engage government and health authorities in the development of rehabilitation medicine for the affected children.

For more information about the MGH International Trauma and Disaster Institute, contact Briggs at

BRINGING HOPE: Above, Briggs, fourth from left, meets with Chinese health care providers to assess medical needs in the Sichuan Province. Below, many children who survived the May 12 earthquake need rehabilitation medical services.

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