Developing training to prepare human health science students to face biological incidents.




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Journal ISSN


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INTED2017 Proceedings



Peer reviewed



Biological incidents involve the natural, accidental or deliberate release of biological agents that can lead to outbreaks or contamination of the environment with significant impact on human health. Outbreaks and intentional attacks (bioterrorism) present a significant challenge to the local healthcare infrastructure due to the large numbers of people affected. Biomedical and medical scientists can play a key role in collaborative response efforts to protect public health and reduce the spread of a biological hazard, as demonstrated during the recent international response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015. Despite the UK playing a major role in the response in Sierra Leone, appropriate training in how best to respond to biological incidents is lacking in biomedical and medical science programmes taught in the UK. Therefore, a series of initiatives have been put in place at De Montfort University (DMU) to address this need. We have developed novel teaching sessions aimed at students studying in the UK following our experience as biomedical scientists at the Public Health England (PHE) mobile laboratories built in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, described in Peña- Fernández & Choi (2016) [1]. These sessions aim to facilitate the acquisition of key competences and skills to protect human health in the aftermath of a biological incident. We initially tested them with DMU medical science students in 2015/16 in which students developed intervention programmes during hypothetical scenarios of Ebola and Zika outbreaks in the UK, using evidence based medicine protocols. Following a high level of student satisfaction, we have made the following improvements that will be tested in 2016/17: 1) the possible creation of a practical element that includes developing a mock-mobile isolator, so students can learn how to work with this critical equipment to manage highly contagious clinical samples necessary to make a diagnosis; 2) the development of a new workshop in which final year students from both degrees will develop an intervention programme to deal with the emerging disease Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever that has recently threatened different EU countries such as Spain this summer 2016. Peer teaching and peer group interaction will be used to enhance students’ revision of these topics and overcome current limitations of time in the delivery of these teaching sessions. Learning through peer-to-peer interaction has shown to improve student engagement and improve active learning. Students will also be provided with a workbook to help them with the development of this activity. A validated questionnaire has been developed to analyse whether these teaching sessions are successful in providing undergraduate students with the skills necessary to face future biological incidents. This article describes the novel teaching sessions developed so far that might be adopted in other related human health degrees to teach key competences necessaries in the aftermath of a biological incident to protect human health.



Haemorrhagic virus, biological incidents training, field experience, evidence-based public health


Peña-Fernández, A., Zinsky, R., Choi, E. and Broadbent, A.J. (2017) Developing training to prepare human health science students to face biological incidents. INTED2017 Proceedings 2017; pp. 4707-4714


Research Institute

Leicester Institute for Pharmaceutical Innovation - From Molecules to Practice (LIPI)