This month Houston was the host city of the sixth annual George H W Bush China-US Relations Conference on Global Infectious Diseases. The conference which was a product of a partnership between the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Peking University Health Science Center, Texas A&M University and the Texas Medical Center in Houston aimed to stimulate new thoughts, introduce colleagues to new opportunities for collaborations and idea exchanges, as well as, be a catalyst for improving health and biosecurity around the world
One of the conference highlights was the Plenary session entitled “The Ebola Outbreak: Insights from the Front Line” in which as the session moderator Dr. Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and Director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, explained, “the purpose of this panel is to have a candid honest dialogue about our (Texas & China) experience with Ebola and how it will apply to other diseases. Here we would like to explore personal experiences and lessons learned as well as things that one would not find in the New England Journal of Medicine.”
Dr. Giroir, continued to explain the importance of the session in his opening statement, “This session was highly requested by both Chinese and US participants because the Ebola outbreak was a challenge in Africa and it challenged the international communities confidence to rapidly respond and eliminate the threat of any disease. Ebola cases in Texas have definitely challenged our assumptions. It has led to significant changes in our approach, response and preparedness. The main purpose of this panel is to have a candid honest dialogue about our experience with Ebola and how it will apply to other diseases”.
Dr. Giroir was both the moderator and a panel speaker for he was able to offer a very unique and informative view of Texas’s experience with the disease and the response that continues to unfold. This unique view is due to Dr. Giroir being appointed by then Governor Rick Perry to be the Director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, which was meant to provide expert evidence based assessment protocols and recommendations related to the Ebola response and to develop a strategic emergency management for incidence command teams and their partners. These recommendations are currently being considered in the Texas Legislature with Senate Bill 538.
In addition to Dr. Giroir, other panelists included:
- David Lakey, M.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Population Health of The University of Texas System, Senior Vice President for Population Health, and Isadore Roosth Distinguished Professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center Tyler
- Edward L. Goodman, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, Hospital Epidemiologist, Core Faculty Internal Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas
- James W. Le Duc, Ph.D. Director, Galveston National Laboratory, University of Texas Medical Branch
- Professor Mifang Liang Head of Laboratory of Viral Hemorrhagic Fever, National Institute for Viral Diseases Control and Prevention, China Centers for Disease Control
- Long Yun., M.D., Vice Director, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Peking Union Medical College Hospital
In a statement made to BioNews concerning the importance of the conference and specifically this Plenary session, Dr. Jennifer R. Herricks, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in Disease and Poverty, National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said “Cooperation between nations is more important than ever for efforts to tackle infectious diseases and this conference was a great way to enhance that conversation between China and the U.S. I was especially glad that diseases of poverty were highlighted. I think the recent tragedy caused by Ebola put a spotlight on this issue and hopefully the momentum to do something about it will be lasting.”