Improving global prehospital and emergency medicine, public health, and disaster health care and preparedness

Primary Care

The Primary Care SIG was formed to bring together WADEM members with an interest and expertise in Primary Care during disasters. This SIG is open to all researchers, educators, health practitioners, and management personnel who have an interest in improving the use
of and engagement with primary care practitioners during a disaster.

Have a look at the Primary Care SIG’s first two newsletters by clicking on the buttons below. If you are interested in learning more about the SIG, kindly complete Expression of Interest form.

Mission and Vision

Mission: To promote local and interdisciplinary integration of primary healthcare into disaster management and to advocate for the primary health needs of the community throughout the different disaster management stages – prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Vision: Our vision is for future disaster management to better integrate primary care health professionals and for them to work collaboratively together with disaster health professionals, local hospitals, governments, and disaster management sectors to ensure the best health outcomes for patients in all stages of the disaster management cycle.

Position Statement

The Primary Care SIG is committed to a collaborative disaster management future. We strongly believe in the inclusion and interprofessional nature of disaster health management throughout the four disaster phases – prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

For health professionals, researchers, educators, and managers, the Primary Care SIG offers a central point for the exchange of research, knowledge, learnings, and ideas on how Primary Care can be better integrated into and utilized during a disaster. We identify primary care health professionals as general practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, social workers, or any health worker who works as the first point of contact for a person within the community health system.

Objectives and Goals

Objectives: The objectives of the Primary Care SIG are to:

  • Promote consideration and inclusion of local primary care health professionals and
    organizations as integral contributors to disaster management systems;
  • Develop disaster health co-operation globally amongst and between Primary Care
    Response SIG members and the broader WADEM community;
  • Coordinate linkage and collaboration between primary care disaster professionals
    and local hospitals, government, and disaster management sectors to promote a
    a holistic approach to disaster PPRR;
  • Network and integrate Primary Care Response SIG into WADEM activities and
    programs; and
  • Assist members with forming connections with other primary care professionals,
    local hospitals, government, and disaster management sectors.

Goals: The goals of the Primary Care SIG are to:

  • Foster the professional growth of members of the Primary Care SIG;
  • Facilitate increased access to professional information for all WADEM members;
  • Assist with organizing Primary Care Response stream for the WADEM biennial Congress;
  • Increase the contribution of disaster primary care health professionals and
    organizations in disaster PPRR through interaction with other SIGs and disaster
    professionals; and
  • Support research and evidence development of Primary Care in disaster management.


Penny Burns, BMed, MPHTM

Dr. Burns is a General Practitioner in Sydney. Her involvement in disasters has been through personal experience, as well as professional involvement through all stages of preparedness, response, and recovery. Disasters have included the 2000 Cerro Grande and 2011 Chamisa wildfires, the 2009 Victorian bushfires, the 2013 NSW Blue Mountains bushfires, the 2014 Sydney Lindt Café Siege, the 2019 Australian Bushfires, and the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic.

Dr. Burns has a number of disaster-related roles including as the Chair of NSW & ACT General Practice Disaster Management Committee, Deputy Chair Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Disaster Management SIG, on the Expert Reference Group Australian Partnership (for) Preparedness Research on InfectiouS (disease) Emergencies and the Scientific Advisory Committee National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, and as a MIMMS and EMERGO instructor. Her PhD thesis at the Australian National University is investigating the role of General Practitioners in disaster systems and examining the health consequences of disasters from a primary care perspective. She is interested in improving health outcomes from disasters and is keen to see primary health care become an integral part of disaster healthcare systems.

Kaitlyn Watson, B Pharm (Hons), PhD, GradCertAppPharmPrac, FHEA
Co-ChairAustralia / Canada

Dr. Kaitlyn Watson is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. Her research interests are in the area of disasters and primary healthcare, pharmacy practice, and the better integration of pharmacists and primary health care providers in disaster health management. Her PhD focused specifically on the roles of pharmacists in disasters and where they best fit within the disaster health team.

Dr. Watson is a registered pharmacist in Australia and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is the co-chair of the WADEM Primary Health Care SIG. Dr. Watson was the co-lead for disaster preparedness workshops using a disaster scenario at Australian pharmacy conferences (the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia Medicines Management Conference 2019) and within an interprofessional education workshop for health undergraduate students at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. She is currently a consultant for the World Health Organization focusing on public health emergency management.

Elizabeth McCourt, B Pharm, GradCertIntPubHlth, PhD

Elizabeth (Libby) is a Research Manager and Clinical Pharmacist at Queensland Health. Dr. McCourt’s PhD examined the preparedness of pharmacists for disasters and emergencies in Australia. In March 2017, she was deployed in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie where she saw firsthand the challenges that health professionals and patients face during times of crisis. This has led to her research interests in disaster preparedness, pharmacy practice in disasters, and bridging the gap between primary and hospital care during a disaster.