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Disaster, Diversity, and Demographics: Why current practice still isolates marginalized communities


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are the new sexy buzzwords of emergency preparedness. Emergency preparedness experts are struggling, many times unsuccessfully, to define what diversity and inclusion look like in their communities. In many instances, the result ends up as a practice of tokenism rather than the creation of a successful and inclusive program that empowers marginalized communities to be proactive in preparedness efforts. In this presentation, Dr. Santa Maria will examine the multiple causative factors of isolation, how perceptions of marginalized communities impact effective programs to implement change, and what preparedness experts can do to begin building solid foundations of connectedness among those they are sworn to protect.

About the Presenter:

Greg Santa Maria, DHSc, MA, MR-P, CHEP

Greg Santa Maria, DHSc, MA, NR-P, is the Executive Director of the South Dakota Health Care Coalition (SDHCC). In his role, he has oversight of the coalition ASPR HPP grant and works with four coalition chapters to enhance healthcare preparedness and response, protecting the residents of South Dakota. He has transitioned the SDHCC into one of the first healthcare coalitions with an Area Command, providing operational support to facilities during disasters. A visionary, Dr. Santa Maria speaks frequently at national conferences on innovative concepts in healthcare disaster management. 

In his previous role as Director of Public Safety at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, he manage enterprise safety, security, and emergency management functions for 44 hospitals and more than 200 senior care locations in 26 states and nine countries. In that role, he coordinated responses to Ebola, H1N1, and multiple mass gathering events. In 2019, in response to hurricane Dorian, he led an incident management initiative in Kissimmee, Florida, that resulted in the safe evacuation of 240 skilled nursing and assisted living residents from several facilities and then transitioned his organization to support a massive response to Coronavirus. Using his expertise in academic disaster research, he implemented an evidence-based emergency management program, creating an ESF-based corporate response plan that functioned successfully during several actual incidents and is now organizational practice.  

From 1996 to 2004, Dr. Santa Maria previously served as the program director for the Saint Vincents Hospital Paramedic Program in lower Manhattan, where he led the Saint Vincent’s Hospital Disaster and Terrorism Preparedness initiative. In 2002, he received a distinguished service award for his participation in the response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He is a former paramedic representative to the NYC Regional Emergency Medical Advisory Committee, and he currently serves as a non-physician subject matter expert for the American Academy of Disaster Medicine.  

In his academic research, Dr. Santa Maria studied numerous large-scale international mass casualty incidents. Finding similar decision-making errors in each event, Dr. Santa Maria went on to create an awareness program for first responders in decision-making positions. This program assists responders in better understanding the dissociative effects of stress and the impact of amygdala hijack on decision-making in stressful situations. Dr. Santa Maria also studied the socioeconomic impacts of disasters and is working on a project enhancing disaster resilience among underserved and vulnerable populations.  

Dr. Santa Maria holds a master’s degree in emergency and disaster management and a doctorate in health science focused on global health and politics. He also proudly remains a Nationally Registered- Paramedic, an honor he has been proud of for 32 years. In his spare time, he plays guitar and writes songs for his German Shepherd Dog Brutus. 

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