University of Pittsburgh
March 4, 2010

National Biosurveillance Efforts Examined During March 11 Lecture at Pitt

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-A University of Pittsburgh public health expert and a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) biodefense official will discuss the federal government's controversial BioWatch Program at 3 p.m. March 11 in Room 532 Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Titled "The Effectiveness of National Biosurveillance Systems: A Dialogue on the Findings and Recommendations of the National Research Council," the free public discussion is part of the Pitt Center for National Preparedness' (CNP) 2009-10 Seminar Series.

The BioWatch Program, a national system of pathogen detectors and air-quality monitors designed to provide early warning of a bioterror attack, was deployed in more than 20 American cities following the 2001 anthrax attacks. Since its implementation, the program has been the target of scrutiny over its cost, oversight, and usefulness.

The debate will be focused on findings of a recently completed report on the program by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC). Bernard D. Goldstein, the report's coauthor and a professor in and former dean of Pitt's Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH), will present the costs and benefits of the program and offer a summary of the IOM-NRC report's recommendations for future enhancements to BioWatch. Goldstein recently testified about the outcome of the IOM-NRC review at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Robert Hooks, deputy assistant secretary for WMD and BioDefense in the Office of Health Affairs within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will provide a response to the study's findings.

Goldstein served as GSPH dean from 2001 to 2005. Before coming to Pitt, he served as a professor and chair of environmental and community medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, where he established and directed the largest academic environmental and occupational health program in the United States. He also has served as an officer with the U.S. Public Health Service and as assistant administrator for research and development at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Goldstein has chaired numerous NRC and IOM committees.

Hooks is responsible for the DHS' early-detection biodefense programs, including BioWatch and the National Biosurveillance Integration Center as well as programs in animal security and food defense and biological threat mitigation. He also has served as director of transition in the Science and Technology Directorate of DHS. Prior to joining DHS in 2003, Hooks served 20 years in the U.S. Navy as a submarine officer, financial analyst, intelligence analyst, and personnel specialist.

Pitt's CNP is a broad, multidisciplinary collaborative enterprise that engages the University's scientists, engineers, policy experts, and clinical faculty. Members of the center possess expertise in biomedical research, public health, medicine, national security policy, engineering, and information technology. The center communicates the innovative research of the University's faculty to the broader public through educational and training programs, including the 2009-10 Seminar Series.

A reception will follow the discussion. Preregistration is encouraged; for more information or to register, visit www.cnp.pitt.edu/seminar.

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