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What does the National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne and Enteric Diseases do and what is your role as Associate Director?
Our center is unique in that it looks at infectious disease and surveillance and response through the eyes of the ecosystem, not just as an exercise in pure culture manipulation and characterization. We study disease control at the interface of people, animals, and the environment where each impacts and influences the other. The concept is not new, but for CDC it provides a fresh approach to public health, providing interventions much further upstream than before. As Associate Director for Science, I am responsible for leading the effort and providing support for the exercise of the best science to be applied to zoonotic, vector-borne, water-borne, foodborne, enteric, and Mycotic diseases.
In the U.S., are there weaknesses in the health care system that might make an emerging disease a very serious problem?
The fact that huge numbers of our U.S. population alone are not covered by health care plans forces sick people to forego early intervention, risking massive disease transmission to others who don't have coverage. Also, lack of appropriate reimbursement for medical procedures and laboratory testing that could provide early diagnosis and therapeutic regimens. From a microbiology laboratory standpoint, I don't understand why hospitals require their physicians and surgeons to be board certified to validate quality but are not interested in having Board Certified Microbiologists and other specialists as laboratory leaders who provide critical diagnostic services to the entire healthcare team. Pathologists and administrators should insist on having ABMM or ABMLI Board Certified Microbiologists in critical positions.
You've worked in bioterrorism preparedness in the past. Some microbiologists argue that bioterror is a red herring and that we, as a country, devote too many resources to thwarting a distant threat. What's your take on the threat of bioterror?
What do you think is the most understudied microbial system?
What is your favorite microbe? Why?
What advice would you give students about life as a microbiologist?
What is something about you that most people don't know?