Rick Bissell trained and worked as a paramedic while pursuing his undergraduate degree in international relations. After working for several years as a paramedic, teaching in Germany for two years and studying Spanish in Mexico, he returned to his native Denver for graduate degrees in preventive medicine and international studies. He focused his graduate studies (2 Masters and a PhD) on learning to use the tools of epidemiology to research the health effects, and their causal pathways, of natural disasters. His work in the Dominican Republic is still quoted today as being responsible for re-directing our thought on the role of infectious diseases after certain kinds of disasters, and provided an early example of the use of epidemiologic outcomes to evaluate the effectiveness of the health sector response to disasters.
After years spent working in dozens of countries and various states, Rick joined the faculty of the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Department of Emergency Health Services, where he continues today. Rick has been responsible for the development and implementation of the national training program for the National Disaster Medical System for the US Public Health Service, and has consulted to CDC, FEMA, OFDA, the American Red Cross, WHO and several foreign governments. His research has focused on health sector response to emergencies, both routine and disasters.
In his role as the department’s graduate program director, Rick oversaw the development of an entirely online version of the department’s Master’s degree, with a most recent expansion to a concentration in Emergency Management, that provides studies in general emergency management, within a health sector context. Rick’s most recent research addresses issues of coordination between the health sector and homeland security/emergency management.