After listening to concerns of faculty members from the Yale School of Public Health Wednesday, Senator Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 addressed the need to increase funding for bioterrorism preparedness programs at the school.
The discussion, titled “Battling Bioterrorism: Working Together to Prepare and Protect our Communities,” was held in light of the School of Public Health’s application for a $1 million grant to further educate doctors, nurses and emergency medical personnel about how to respond to bioterror attacks. Although the Center for Disease Control has approved the request, it has not yet provided the necessary funding.
“This inadequacy of funding is unacceptable and a big mistake in priorities,” Lieberman said.
He promised to continue to voice these concerns in Washington D.C., noting that both the state of Connecticut and the nation as a whole need to do a better job of working together to prepare their people for a bioterrorism attack. He said only 20 percent of public health officials in the country are adequately trained to deal with bioterrorism situations.
School of Public Health Dean Michael Merson said he agreed with the senator’s argument that it would benefit our country to improve and expand student as well as professional training programs to further prepare them to deal with the threat of a bioterrorist attack.
“We are doing what we can with the little money we have, but there is a lot to do in a short period of time, and we need more funding to do it,” Merson said.
Lieberman said any time the government invests in the threat of a terrorist attack, the country gets a double return. In this case, he said, increased funding for bioterrorism preparedness would improve the nation’s public health infrastructure, better preparing it not only for a terrorist attack but also natural disasters and outbreaks of diseases such as the West Nile Virus.
“In the war on terrorism, we would not tend to think of a university as a training ground, but in a sense it is because students of public health are eventually going to be the leaders in that field,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman focused part of the discussion more specifically on Connecticut, saying that while there is a great deal of money being spent on bioterrorism preparedness in Massachusetts and New York, other states in the region are not receiving adequate funding. Doctor of infectious diseases and Public Health professor Jim Hadler said a center of bioterrorism education in Connecticut would be valuable because any doctor who is seeing patients — not only those in big cities targeted for terrorism — should be aware that the patients he is treating might have been infected by a bioterrorist disease.
“Where we are right now [at the School of Public Health] is really a massive training phase, which requires a tremendous education effort,” Hadler said.
Lieberman complimented the School of Public Health faculty members at the discussion for the knowledge they displayed, joking that he had a feeling they were all among the 20 percent of adequately trained professionals he mentioned earlier.
“Detection will happen best with an informed and connected group,” he said.
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