The AAMC, with support of the Congressional Academic Medicine Caucus (CAMC), hosted an Oct. 13 congressional briefing, titled “One Year Later: Lessons Learned from Ebola in the U.S. and Academic Medicine’s Role in Preparing for the Next Threat,” that focused on the key role academic medical centers have in ensuring that the nation is prepared for any and all threats.
The briefing, which was widely attended by bipartisan staff from both the House and Senate, featured AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D.; Bryce Gartland, M.D., FHM, CEO of Emory University Hospital; Bruce Ribner, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Director of the Infectious Disease Unit at Emory University Hospital; and James Le Duc, Ph.D., Director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Much of the discussion centered around how continued federal investments in medical research, hospital preparedness, and specialized clinical care at teaching hospitals are essential in fighting both emerging threats such as MERS and expected challenges such as influenza.
Dr. Gartland provided an overview of Emory University Hospital and the unique ability of academic medical centers to combine high-quality patient care, innovative research, and medical education. Dr. Ribner then spoke about the response to the Ebola virus outbreak, specifically Emory’s Serious Communicable Disease Unit, which is where the first U.S. patient infected with Ebola was treated. Dr. Ribner reiterated how important sustainable funding is to “preserve and maintain a robust infrastructure to manage the next outbreak.” He also stated that their budget “had been cut to one-third of what it was in 2001.”
Dr. Le Duc concluded the briefing by discussing the crucial role research played in the response to the Ebola virus, and explained how long-term federal investment, especially support through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is essential in developing promising vaccines as well as responding to future outbreaks. Further, Dr. Le Duc added that “the federal sector and academic community are intimately linked, especially for conditions that are low incidence, high impact.”
Dr. Grover noted AAMC's strong partnership with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and thanked Congress for emergency supplemental funding included in the final FY 2015 spending package. He noted, however, that to date HHS has released only about a third of the $576 million in funding designated for the network of Ebola treatment centers - 91 percent of which are AAMC members - though the costs of those facilities has exceeded the modest amount of funding made available to them.
Academic medical centers were on the forefront in responding to the Ebola virus and remain leaders in the medical community in preparing and training health care staff across the nation to respond effectively to the next threat.