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Dean’s Symposium on Ebola

Dean’s Symposium on Ebola

Remarks for Ronald J. Daniels
Dean’s Symposium on Ebola: Crisis, Context and Response
October 14, 2014 8:45am arrival; 9:00am Program begins
9:05am – 9:10am remarks
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Sommer Hall

[Introduction by Dean Klag.]

Thank you, Mike.

Thank you to the exceptional faculty and staff of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, who have worked so hard and so expeditiously to bring together this remarkable assembly of colleagues from across the University and the nation to share their experiences and expertise.

The speed with which this symposium came together is a testament to the depth and breadth of our capacity across our divisions – from the Bloomberg School of Public Heath to the School of Nursing to the School of Medicine to our affiliated partners at Jhpiego – to marshal our human capital to help understand mounting public health crises and inform effective response.

This is, simply put, what our people do ¬– and indeed, have always done.

As a member of the Public Health Service, Hopkins’ founding professor of epidemiology, W.H. Frost, compiled and analyzed data on the flu epidemic of 1918-1919, providing the foundation for flu tracking still in use by public health agencies today.

The first step in controlling an epidemic is accurate diagnosis. Time and again, Hopkins virologists have identified the virus types – from polio to hemorrhagic fever – that wreaked havoc on populations.

Bloomberg School alumnus D.A. Henderson led the WHO campaign to rid the world of small pox – and then returned to the school as dean.

In the early years of the AIDS crisis, Hopkins experts played pivotal roles in identifying at risk populations and staunching spread of the disease in hospitals and clinics, from Baltimore to Uganda.

Now, as the numbers of reported Ebola cases mount and the death toll rises…as nations and communities across West Africa struggle to meet the basic health care needs of populations in addition to managing acute care for Ebola patients…as we consider the daunting implications for the global populations if this outbreak is not met with an effective and sustainable international response… we are acutely aware of Hopkins’ obligation to marshal our intellectual bounty as the world community wrestles with this unpredictable and growing epidemic. An epidemic that WHO director general, Dr. Margaret Chan has called, “a crisis for international peace and security.”

With our deep ties to communities across the African continent, and our expertise in basic science, clinical practice, public health, and international public policy, we are uniquely positioned to ignite ideas around best practices, and, most importantly, turn those ideas into action, working in concert with our partners.

Building on our past work, efforts are already underway as teams drawn from across the University are coalescing to aid in the response and work with ministries of health.

These collaborative efforts range from implementing training programs that would put 1000 health workers in Liberia to assist with patient care and epidemic management, to developing a more robust and realistic analytical model that will help those leading the fight make better strategic decisions in the present, and for the future, to creating communications strategies and harnessing mobile technology to educate and empower frontline workers and put the most current and reliable information in the hands of affected populations.

Of course, as a research university, we play another essential role. We are a convener of crucial – even controversial – conversations. In these conversations, as today’s featured speaker Michael Osterholm [Oh-ster-holm] has exhorted us to, we ask the questions the world is most afraid to ask. Drawing on diverse expertise in this room, we create a scaffold to discipline debate on those vexing questions. And we reckon with their answers no matter how daunting or complex.

Once again, this is a moment where we must be present and accounted for.

For Hopkins, this is more than a professional obligation.

It is a moral one.

And it demands that we continue to deploy the amalgam of impeccable science, personal courage and fortitude that define us.

For all these reasons, I am deeply grateful to each of you for being here today. Your presence, your engagement and your humanity inspire optimism. I know this will be a productive day and I thank each of you for being a part not only of these sessions, but the important work that lies ahead.