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 radiological/chemical/biological agents.
“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 countermeasures.
“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 Prepared’.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718