The only civilian crew of its kind in the nation, the Florida Advanced Surgical Transport team joined the FIU family in April 2016 through a partnership with the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the university’s Department of Emergency Management. Commonly called FIU-FAST, the all-volunteer squad deploys medical professionals to perform critical care medicine after disasters. The team comprises nearly 100 individuals including trauma surgeons, emergency medicine doctors, nurses and other support personnel.
Members deployed almost immediately after Hurricane Irma when the Florida Department of Health asked it to assist West Kendall Baptist Hospital in handling its surge of emergency room patients. Six physicians, six nurses and a paramedic arrived at the hospital at 1 a.m. to find 92 patients waiting in the ER. By 3:45 a.m., only 30 remained, thanks in part to the extra hands. They treated patients with lacerations, the flu and a possible stroke, among other ailments.
The following day, members again helped at West Kendall Baptist and also at Jackson South Community Hospital to reduce patient wait times and tend to those with less complex medical emergencies so that hospital staff could focus on acute injuries.
While its main mission is to assist after disasters, FIU-FAST has deployed in other instances as well.
In February, the team made a mission to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, as part of Continuing Promise ’17, an ongoing military/civilian project led by the U.S. Southern Command that provides medical and veterinary assistance to its partner nations and organizations. In the course of the trip, a surgical nurse, a paramedic and six physicians treated approximately 1,500 patients in a makeshift clinic set up on an indoor basketball court with no air conditioning. They also helped distribute much-needed medical supplies to a local hospital and orphanages.
Last May, the team set up a 10-bed critical-care field hospital in Miami Beach for the Memorial Day weekend, marking the first time it partnered with local first responders.