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College of Medicine hosts bioterrorism conference|
By Deborah A. Benedetti
| More than 50 primary care practitioners, public health representatives and emergency medical personnel from the Hershey area attended the Penn State Hershey Conference on Defense Against Chemical and Biological Terrorism.|
There are a number of pathogens biological toxins, chemical agents and radiation agents that are potential terrorist weapons, said Chief of the Division of Rheumatology Dr. Stanley J. Naides. We have not seen many of these pathogens on a day-to-day basis. The first challenge is to educate ourselves to recognize, diagnose and treat these agents. We also need to know how to interact with the appropriate emergency services and government systems and agencies when we encounter these types of pathogens.
Naides, Thomas B. Hallowell Professor of Medicine, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Professor of Pharmacology in the College of Medicine at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, added, It is important that we have systems in place to handle the patients and materials safely, and we must respond in ways to minimize injury and prevent small events from becoming big events.
He developed the conference in collaboration with the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Bioterrorism Task Force and the Department of Continuing Education. Tracy L. Miller, coordinator of continuing medical education, Department of Continuing Education, and Dr. Luanne E. Thorndyke, assistant dean of continuing education and associate professor of medicine, assisted Naides in planning and delivering the conference, which was held in December.
The Hershey Medical Center is committed to helping area physicians and emergency medical staff prepare to respond to potential health threats resulting from terrorist acts, Thorndyke said. The Department of Continuing Education is assisting in this mission by working with Hershey Medical Center physicians and staff to develop continuing medical education programs, such as this first Conference on Defense Against Chemical and Biological Terrorism.
The conference was the next step in the task forces educational activities for the medical center, Naides said. This was an opportunity to bring together expertise related to bioterrorism and related threats and expand this information beyond the medical center.
He assembled College of Medicine faculty members to present sessions on a wide range of topics during the two-day conference. In addition to welcoming participants to the conference, he shared his expertise as a virologist in a presentation on Viral Agents Targeting Humans. He discussed smallpox, Venezuelan equine encephalitis and viral hemorrhagic fevers.
The conference opened with remarks by Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine; Dr. Robert Muscalus, physician general of Pennsylvania; Dr. Kym A. Salness, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine and chair of the Hershey Medical Center Bioterrorism Task Force; and Norman Smith of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Association.
Other speakers and topics were:
We need to enhance our ability to monitor, recognize, diagnose, treat and prevent bioterrorism threats and the effects of these agents, Naides said. This conference was just the first step in the education process. He is planning a second conference on bioterrorism topics for 2003.