March 1, 2006

UW Receives HRSA Grant to Train Students in Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness


Andy_Stergachis_for_webAndy Stergachis, professor of epidemiology and adjunct professor of pharmacy, has received a 3-year $559,000 award from the federal Health Services Resources Administration (HRSA) to train UW School of Pharmacy students in bioterrorism and public health emergency preparedness. UW received one of 13 curriculum development grants, which combined with the 19 continuing education grants; make up the $26.1 million in funds allocated to 32 universities by HRSA’s Bioterrorism Training and Curriculum Development Program (BTCDP). The BTCDP goal is develop a national health care workforce that can recognize indications of a terrorist event and treat patients and communities swiftly, safely and effectively.

“It is important that pharmacy students and other students within the our health sciences schools receive training on how to best prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, such as bioterrorism, emerging infections, or natural disasters,” says Stergachis who is very pleased to have received the grant.

The UW School of Pharmacy will use these funds to further develop, implement and evaluate a multidisciplinary curriculum in bioterrorism and public health emergency preparedness that provides pharmacy and other regional health care students at the University of Washington Academic Health Center, as well as those at Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy, with the knowledge and skills necessary to recognize signs of a hazardous event, meet the acute care needs of patients, and work in a coordinated, multidisciplinary manner in responding to public health emergencies at the community, state and national level.

Pharmacists play an indispensable role in securing the health of our society in the wake of man-made and natural disasters. They represent the third largest health profession group, with nearly 200,000 licensed pharmacists nationwide, and are likely first responders in identifying an emergency situation. Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to monitor over-the-counter (OTC) drug sales and patient inquiries into treatments for flu-like illnesses, the unusual patterns or surges of which may alert of a possible attack.

Pharmacists are also the nation’s most accessible health professionals and boast an extensive infrastructure of 55,000 community pharmacies (many with 24-hour service) and 11,000 hospital and health-system pharmacies nationwide. “Should emergencies arise,” explains Stergachis, “whether urban or rural area, there is usually a pharmacy and one or more pharmacists within five miles of nearly every American household.”

Pharmacists are also socially well-placed for emergency care, they are the most trusted healthcare professionals, experts in educating the public about medications and adept at the triage role (i.e. sending patients to their doctor, to the emergency department, etc.) Also, most are authorized by their states to administer medications including vaccines, which can be instrumental in managing community health in the midst of a disaster or terrorist act.

UW School of Pharmacy has a record of innovation in emergency preparedness and response. Its faculty and staff have established strong links with other academic institutions and continue to collaborate extensively with local, state and federal preparedness agencies. UW is involved with initiatives pertaining to pharmacy education and public health roles for pharmacists, including mass dispensing, the Strategic National Stockpile, risk communication, and surveillance. This grant will be one more step in UW’s commitment to graduating the best and most prepared pharmacists to take on the ever expanding role of the profession and meet the ever growing needs of the community.


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