When it comes to dealing with bioterrorism, it is essential that agencies like the police, county health officials, and academic public health experts work together and communicate clearly.
That was one of the key messages delivered last week when more than 75 students, faculty, law enforcement, health officials, and epidemiologists participated in a staged bioterrorism event at a UB-hosted, two-day workshop presented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The “Regional Joint Criminal and Epidemiological Investigations Workshop” (Crim-Epi) took place August 6 and 7 on the south campus and was sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences, the Office of the Vice President for University Life and Services, the School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP), and the FBI’s Buffalo Field Office.
The main purpose of the days’ activities was to bring together professionals from a variety of backgrounds to learn techniques and protocols for collaborative engagement in emergency preparedness and epidemiological investigations related to bioterrorism.
Dr. Michael Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the UB medical school, opened the proceedings with a welcome and expressed his thanks to all taking part in the workshop.
“This symposium will allow us to develop roles, skills, and expertise should such an event take place,” said Dr. Cain. “Through this workshop, we will use case studies and incorporate the precepts of interprofessional education (IPE) as we bring together our colleagues in community health, law enforcement, and the faculty and students at UB.”
Ms. Gale Burstein, Erie County health commissioner, said health and law enforcement officials must be prepared for the unknown and the unexpected.
“This workshop is critical to building trust among agencies,” she said.
UB was chosen, according to Mr. Brian P. Boetig, special agent in charge, FBI Buffalo, because FBI headquarters’ WMD Division has a dedicated interest in solidifying a national, academia-based footprint.
And UB was appealing, said Mr. Boetig, because of its expertise in epidemiology and public health. The FBI became aware of this after the Buffalo WMD coordinator recently gave a presentation at UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
“The WMD coordinator was confident that the FBI could integrate with UB’s established public health programming,” said Mr. Boetig. “So this particular opportunity was the perfect fit on both local and national programming levels.”
The FBI strives to hold six crim-epi workshops per year.