WE AREN'T 'MUDDLED' ABOUT BIOTERRORISM



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Last Updated

14 Jun 2003

Source: Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2002.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Click for original letter (12/13/01)

We Aren't 'Muddled' About Bioterrorism

Dr. Sally Satel, in her Dec. 13 editorial-page commentary, "Public Health? Forget It; Cosmic Issues Beckon," characterizes epidemiologists and the American College of Epidemiology (ACE) as "muddled" by "cosmic issues" in the face of immediate threats such as the anthrax introduction and gross deficiencies in public health response mechanisms. This criticism blurs important distinctions.

Government agencies bear primary responsibility for responding to immediate health crises and implementing disease control and prevention programs. In contrast, voluntary professional organizations like ACE typically advance their fields through such activities as education, recognition, and scholarships and advocacy surrounding a broad range of health issues. With around 900 members and a modest budget, ACE can provide selected information on bioterrorism through its own Web site or through links to others with greater dedicated capacity. However, ACE and its members had already begun to take more appropriate and ultimately more effective approaches by the time of its September 2000 Annual Meeting, when bioterrorism was the keynote topic.

Within days of the recent anthrax episode, ACE leaders began discussing the long-range concerns appropriate to our mission; a working group was charged to examine our members' central role in the production of an expanding force of well-trained professionals. ACE members participated actively in the dialogue at the U.S. Medicine Institute's December forum on Disease Surveillance, Bioterrorism and Homeland Security. Under ACE co-sponsorship, a Spring 2002 assembly of leaders in graduate education in epidemiology will propose new curricular material on bioterrorism.

Richard A. Kaslow, M.D.
President
American College of Epidemiology
Birmingham, Ala.