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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 22, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 4
Public Health forms Global Health, Security Institute

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

To bring together its diverse biodefense and public health preparedness research and training initiatives, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has formed the Institute for Global Health and Security.

"There is a burgeoning need in the nation for science and leadership development in the fields of biodefense and public health preparedness," said Alfred Sommer, dean of the School of Public Health, in making the announcement last week. "Over the past year we have been discussing ways to best organize our biodefense and public health preparedness activities. The new Institute for Global Health and Security will create synergy between the school's many research, training and policy initiatives in these areas."

These initiatives involve 65 full-time faculty members at the School of Public Health and are supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Institutes of Health and public and private philanthropy.

The Institute for Global Health and Security will encompass biodefense programs and activities already under way at the School of Public Health, which include the Center for Public Health Preparedness, MidAtlantic Public Health Training Center, Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute and Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, as well as newly funded global health research activities.

The institute also will coordinate the school's activities as a member of the Middle Atlantic Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research, or RCE, which will work to develop new and improved vaccines, and diagnostic tools and treatments for biological agents and infectious diseases, such as anthrax bacillus, smallpox, and Ebola and West Nile viruses. Donald Burke, director of the school's Center for Immunization Research, is co-principal investigator of the RCE and a member of its executive leadership committee.

This new institute will continue to grow its collaborative ties with CEPAR — Johns Hopkins' Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response — and with the university's Applied Physics Laboratory, which has a unique defense planning capacity.

Over the past two years, the school's centers have sponsored training seminars for law enforcement, public health and government officials on public health preparedness against terrorist attacks, "dirty bombs" or radiological accidents, bioterrorism in the workplace and relevant research and policy initiatives.

The school's SWAT team — so named for Scientists Working to Address Terrorism — also will be a part of the Institute for Global Health and Security as it continues to provide expertise on public health preparedness matters and conduct research. Since its establishment in September 2001, the SWAT team has worked with the American Postal Workers Union to develop safe practices for dealing with potential biological agents in the mail, advised government officials on the efficacy of using anthrax vaccine as a preventive measure after exposure to spores, provided evidence for alternative smallpox vaccination strategies and published several studies on the use of antibiotics in preventing anthrax.

One of the School of Public Health's major missions is training leaders in public health and biodefense who can grow to lead programs in academia and in the public or private sectors. This semester, the school began offering a degree concentration in public health preparedness and biodefense for students enrolled in its Master of Public Health program.

Sommer also announced last week that two accomplished faculty members who were involved in the school's earliest biodefense policy efforts, D.A. Henderson and Tara O'Toole, will be joining the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity, along with two other faculty members and a number of administrative staff. John Bartlett, the founding co-director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies is remaining with the School of Medicine.

"The University of Pittsburgh will benefit from these two talented individuals, who I'm delighted will remain in Baltimore," Sommer said. "We look forward to continuing our close collaboration."


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