(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Among the most serious threats to national security are those related to the health sector, such as pandemic influenza and bioterrorism. Unfortunately, there are demonstrated gaps in the mobilization, coordination, management and training of health personnel for times of large-scale, catastrophic emergencies.

To address these gaps in our country’s readiness for disasters, The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on Thursday approved establishment of the National Center for Emergency Medical Preparedness and Response (NCEMPR).

NCEMPR combines three A&M System members to leverage the capabilities of each: medical and public health services expertise within the Texas A&M Health Science Center; emergency preparedness and response training within the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX); and research, testing and simulation expertise of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). As such, NCEMPR further positions The Texas A&M University System as the preeminent institution related to medical and public health preparedness.

“The Texas A&M Health Science Center is very pleased with the action taken by the Board of Regents in establishing NCEMPR,” said Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., President of the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs for The Texas A&M University System. “The A&M System engineering agencies are known across the nation and around the world for exceptional training of first responders. NCEMPR adds a vital component of emergency response and preparedness with the medical team. This enhancement will mean improved levels and preparedness and thus, enhanced safety for those in need.”

NCEMPR will offer training and evaluation to local communities and to the state to strengthen preparedness for future emergencies. It also will assist the federal government in development, training and deployment of Disaster Medical Assistance Teams while exploring potential opportunities for coordinated health and engineering response to international emergencies.

“Within the A&M System are the very capabilities needed to address the most critically-important gap in national security: disasters involving public health,” said Dr. G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. “The engineering program has established its role as a leader in national emergency preparedness and response, and this center will allow us to build upon that, adding health and medical expertise for unique contributions to public health and safety.”

Housed in the Texas A&M Health Science Center, NCEMPR will be led by Scott Lillibridge, M.D., assistant dean in the HSC-School of Rural Public Health and director of the Global Health and Security Program.

“At Texas A&M, we have taken the best out of the engineering programs and the health science center programs related to disaster preparedness and response and created a whole new academic discipline that is focused on training and exercise for the health and medical community,” said Dr. Lillibridge, NCEMPR executive director. “Texas A&M has a huge investment in disaster preparedness and response. Capabilities like TEEX, Disaster City® and NERRTC (National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center) and a number of other training organizations at Texas A&M are already established first-class first responder training entities. It is our intention to create the same capacity in the health and medical community. We train together to respond together.”

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