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COLLEGE STATION, TX - Lessons lived and lessons learned.
The disasters that struck the heart of this nation, the World
Trade Center collapse and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, demonstrated
the urgent need for a coordinated response to public health
emergencies. As the world continues to shrink, this response must
also include protection and prevention from emerging threats such
as a pandemic influenza, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS),
and the intentional and natural exposure to
"Our public health infrastructure had been neglected for years,"
said Dr. Gerald Parker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
"Since 9/11 and since Katrina, we are light years ahead of where we
were, but we still have a long way to go. We've begun to put a
coordinated emphasis on emerging infectious diseases, and we've
been working on exercising plans and scenarios, and developing
performance measures for our efforts."
Parker, who received his DVM from Texas A&M and a PhD from
Baylor College of Medicine, addressed the Texas A&M University
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. He
emphasized the need for collaboration and teamwork across multiple
disciplines and jurisdictions.
"In order to be prepared for any future public health emergency,
we have to have a better scientific understanding of the efficacy
of our current medical countermeasures," said Parker. "We also have
to be able to provide better public health guidance to citizens.
The decisions we make today not only affect individuals, but they
have a significant impact on decisions made in industry and in
government at many levels. For this reason, we have to have a
balanced use of our resources and find a point of shared
responsibility for our emergency preparedness. Some responsibility
belongs at the federal level, but there is also a certain amount of
responsibility that lies with the state and local levels of
government, with industry, and with individuals."
One of the key movements in the nation towards better
preparedness is the joining of hands between the American
Veterinary Medical Association and the American Medical
Association. Both organizations have established new directives to
work more collaboratively, promoting the "One Health" concept.
Through a shared foundation in the basic sciences, veterinarians
and physicians are able to work together in the development of
novel medical countermeasures and improved surveillance techniques
and reporting structures to the benefit of public health.
"Practicing veterinarians are often on the front line of many of
the emerging diseases that appear in animals," said Parker. "They
are able to have a situational awareness in what they see in their
client base, and through diagnostics and reporting, are able to be
leaders in their community's preparedness. More importantly, they
need to have developed leadership skills in addition to their
clinical skills, because it is no longer sufficient to be a good
clinician or a good scientist only. Leadership and management are
critical to overall success as a clinician or scientist, and will
be what's needed in time of emergency."
Veterinarians are poised to play a key role in preparedness and
response, with contributions to the basic science behind research
and development efforts all the way to deployment of medical
"It takes a truly multi-disciplinary team to accomplish the
directives we have been given," added Parker. "Veterinarians will
be a significant part of that allied health professional team,
whether it's at the federal, state, or local level. Our success is
based on how we make the most of the expertise that's available to
us while maximizing our resources to the greatest extent possible.
In the end, we hope to achieve our vision of 'A Nation
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843
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