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APUS Alumni Stories: Expanding Emergency and Disaster Management Internationally

APUS Alumni Stories: Expanding Emergency and Disaster Management Internationally

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Learn more about emergency and disaster management degrees at American Public University.

By Melanie Conner, APUS Alumni Relations Outreach Liaison and Manuel S. Sta Romana, AMU Graduate

Dr. Manuel Sta. Romana is a visionary leader in domestic and international healthcare. He graduated from American Military University in May 2017 with a master of arts in emergency and disaster management. With his master’s degree and his background in medicine, Manuel created the Universal Touch of Life Medical Foundation (UTOL).Manuel S Sta Romana

The UTOL foundation operates a Christian healthcare system in the Philippines, the United States and the United Arab Emirates. Christian doctors, pastors, engineers and businessmen in the Philippines and Southeast Asia manage the foundation.

What have you been doing since you completed your master’s degree at AMU?

I have followed God’s leading and wisdom to build a hospital ship to serve the medical and humanitarian needs of the people in the Philippines and Southeast Asia and aid in disaster relief.

Where did your vision for the hospital ship stem from?

My vision was born from the heart of God. My hospital ship vision and the humanitarian medical mission complement each other.

How did you prepare to enter this field?

By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and with my master’s degree in emergency and disaster management, I became equipped with the proper knowledge. My master’s degree gave me the authority to speak about preparing for man-made and natural disasters and to persuade policy makers and stakeholders to donate the ship to us.

How has the knowledge you acquired for your master’s degree assisted you in the field?

Acquiring an evidence-based knowledge on how to manage man-made and natural disasters helped me to be more prepared to handle the huge task of humanitarian response. My research studies revealed that most stakeholders and policy makers who respond to disasters are not equipped with the proper knowledge of the disaster cycle.

My research further revealed that Hurricane Katrina’s failure was directly related to the FEMA director, who did not have the background or skills in emergency and disaster management. FEMA failed to respond appropriately during Katrina because of poor coordination among the local, state, federal and non-profit organization stakeholders.

Having a background in medicine and emergency and disaster management prepared me to move forward with my vision of converting a retired U.S. aircraft carrier into a humanitarian hospital ship.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in your role?

My biggest challenge as president and chairman of UTOL is to convince people of the feasibility of converting a decommissioned U.S. aircraft carrier into a hospital ship. Many people questioned the vision — if it was feasible — and how we would sustain our operations.

We want to preserve the history of these vessels. Also, we want to honor servicemembers by bringing hope to suffering people.

What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

The milestones and significance of forming a private-public partnership network with local and international partners, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and faith-based organizations are keys to a successful humanitarian response. We have registered the UTOL Medical Foundation in the U.S. and in the Philippines, and we want to register the foundation in several other countries. At the moment, we are in the process of registering UTOL in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Our present partner organizations are Global Hands UK; Giving Children Hope in Los Angeles; and 700 Club Asia in the Philippines. We are currently in the process of signing an agreement with the American Lifeguard Association to train lifeguards in Dubai.

In addition, we are negotiating a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for a partnership with Gawad Kalinga Foundation (GKF) this January. GKF is one of the largest NGOs in the Philippines.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in the emergency and disaster management field?

Aspiring students who seek a career in emergency and disaster management should enroll in this degree program in preparation for man-made and natural disasters. Emergency and disaster management is a new science, and many people are still unaware of the significance of this specialty.

Learn more about emergency and disaster management degrees at American Public University.

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