Securing the Homeland

U.S. Surgeon General reviews architecture
student designs for surge hospital facilities

The U.S. Surgeon General and dozens of other federal health officials visited the Texas A&M campus last December to examine architecture student designs for surge hospital facilities. The surge hospital concept involves the transformation of existing structures, such as hotels, convention centers or public schools, into fully functional medical facilities in the event of disasters that overwhelm or incapacitate existing health care centers.

The design review was an integral part of a daylong conference sponsored by the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center’s Office of Homeland Security.

“I have seen so much innovation today. It’s overwhelming,” said Richard Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General. “These are critical areas we must deal with at my level and globally. This is the kind of thinking we need for the future.”

He said the officials at the conference would take the students’ ideas back to Washington, D.C., to discuss with federal lawmakers and agencies working to establish a surge hospital network.

Paul K. Carlton, director of the Office of Homeland Security at the A&M System Health Science Center, developed the idea for creating emergency back-up hospitals and tapped the architecture studio of George J. Mann, the Ronald L. Skaggs Endowed Professor of Health Facilities Design, to develop concepts and architectural models.

In addition to exhibiting the students’ designs, the conference included presentations by representatives of several private companies who showcased technological innovations such as new diagnostic tools, emergency response vehicles and remote patient monitors. Representatives of federal, state and local government agencies also offered perspectives on the surge hospital concept and its place in homeland security planning and programs.

Seventeen student teams from Mann’s design studio developed solutions for surge hospitals staged within a variety of building types in diverse locations around the nation. The designs ranged from the conversion of the massive Washington D.C. Convention Center, to a small motel in Schulenberg, Texas.

“Most of the student’s designs involved the quick adaptation of existing facilities into a surge hospitals,” Mann said. “Their primary objective was to explore simple but effective alternatives to supplement or replace existing U.S. hospitals, should a disaster or a terrorist attack render them overwhelmed or inoperative.”

To simulate architectural practice, physicians from the A&M System Health Science Center acted as “clients” for students developing the surge hospital designs.

— The End —

January 11, 2005

See related story in the Bryan-College Station Eagle

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