A former assistant surgeon general of the United States has been
named to head a new Emory program that will address critical needs
in the nations public health system revealed by the terrorist
attacks of last fall.
Ruth Berkelman, professor of epidemiology in the Rollins School
of Public Health, will direct the Office of Public Health Preparedness
and Research, which is being established on the strength of a $4.2
million gift from the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation of Atlanta.
The formation of the office was inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks
on the World Trade Center and Pentagon as well as the series of
anthrax-tainted letters mailed to public figures in Florida, Washington
and New York. The objectives of the office include addressing the
threat posed by emerging infectious diseases that can arise without
warning, straining the capacity of public health surveillance and
We want to use this new office to serve the best interests
of the local, state, national and international communities,
said Berkelman, who will serve as the Rollins Professor of Public
Health Preparedness. We need to strengthen the public health
infrastructure and capacity to address naturally occurring infectious
disease outbreaks, as well as those caused by terrorism.
Berkelman said one of the chief concerns of the new office would
be studying and strengthening the public health surveillance systems
responsible for detecting unusual events, such as the early cases
of anthrax that turned out to be the precursors of a larger problem.
In Georgia, the office will coordinate with public health officers
on a county and statewide level. It will also maintain an active
liaison with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We are very grateful to the Rollins Foundation for their strong
support of the school at Emory that bears their name, said
public health Dean James Curran. This magnificent, timely
gift addresses some of the most pressing needs in our society.